Millions Raised for International Criminal Court’s Russia Investigations

March 21, 2023

A coalition in London of justice ministers from 40 nations raised nearly $5 million to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its investigation of Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine. 

The ministers’ conference in London came four days after the ICC announced it had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes—specifically over his alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children.

The move was the first time the ICC had issued a warrant against the leader of one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

Russia is not a member of the ICC—nor is the U.S., for that matter. Unless someone were to turn in Putin—which would only be likely to happen if he were to visit an ICC member nation—he is unlikely to face trial by The Hague court. 

Even if he did, war crimes trials by the ICC are often a slow process. For instance, trial against Ali Kushayb, the suspected leader of Janjaweed militia in Darfur only recently got underway for atrocities that occurred in 2003-’04. And the ICC tried Slobodan Milosovic in 2002 for crimes against Albanian Serbs, but he died in his cell before his four-year trial came to a close.

While the London conference’s focus was on backing the ICC’s work, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general Andriy Kostin along with President Volodymyr Zelensky petitioned for international support to establish a special international tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russian leaders for broader crimes of aggression. Already Kostin’s office has  launched investigations into more than 72,000 incidents of war crimes in Ukraine.

“We share the belief that President Putin and the wider leadership must be held to account,” Britain’s Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said as he opened the London meeting. “Let’s make sure that we back up our words with deeds, that we back up our moral support with practical means to effectively investigate these awful crimes.”

The ICC’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, said the warrant for Putin’s arrest was a “somber occasion” that reminds the world that joint international action is key to bringing justice to Ukraine. 

When asked if he believed Putin would ever stand trial one day, Khan conceded that the ICC’s record was not perfect, but he pointed to the success of the Special Court of Sierra Leone in convicting Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 2012 for atrocities committed in the 1990s.

“Those that think they have a free pass or that there’s no consequences need to realize that the law is out there,” said Khan.

PHOTO: ICC in The Hague 2019

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