‘High probability’ ICC issues more arrest warrants for Putin and other top Russian officials

The ICC may issue new arrest warrants for Putin and other top Russian officials

The ICC may issue new arrest warrants for Putin and other top Russian officials

TheInternational Criminal Court (ICC) is looking at the links between the Wagner private military company (PMC) and the Russian leadership, potentially leading to a new arrest warrant for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in connection with the crimescommitted by the “Wagnerites” in Ukraine, said David Scheffer, the former U.S. State Department Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Voice of America reported on Aug. 3.

“There is a high probability of new arrest warrants because President Putin continues to almost daily expose himself to committing cruel crimes or instigating serious crimes,” Scheffer stated.

“Due to his association with the Wagner group, which Putin himself directly acknowledged, he may become a target of investigation. Eventually, the International Criminal Court may issue an arrest warrant for Putin based on Wagner PMC’s activities.”

The ICC is highly experienced in handling cases involving similar private military companies and governments that support and finance such “non-state groups,” he added.

Read also: US decision to provide ICC with Russian war crimes evidence is historic, says prosecutor general

Putin’s statement about Wagner PMC being financed from the Russian budget provides grounds to hold Russia and Putin accountable for the actions of the “Wagnerites,” pointed out University College London law professor Philippe Sands, adding that Putin’s words could have serious consequences in holding Russia to account for Wagner PMC’s actions and for personally holding Putin responsible as Russia’s leader.

Legal opinions diverge regarding whether financing alone is sufficient evidence to hold someone accountable for an international crime. Putin’s acknowledgment of a direct connection with Wagner PMC removes the possibility of him denying “sufficient control” over the PMC’s actions, potentially strengthening the case for new arrest warrants. The issuance of these warrants will primarily depend on the actions of the ICC prosecutor.

ICC Head Piotr Hofmański stated that the prosecutor can request arrest warrants from the pre-trial judges, who will determine if there are grounds for issuing future warrants. He confirmed that the prosecutor is actively investigating new cases in Ukraine and other countries, indicating further actions are likely to come.

It is worth noting that the legal status of Wagner PMC in Russia remains unclear.

Read also: EU Parliament calls on ICC to consider arrest warrant for Lukashenko

While private military companies are banned under Russian law, Moscow utilized the services of the “Wagnerites” in Ukraine, including in battles for the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast. Putin has granted pardons to prisoners and bestowed state honors upon Wagner PMC members. However, he acknowledged in June that the state bears “no legal obligations” towards them if they have no contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry.

The ambiguity surrounding Wagner PMC makes it challenging to directly link the mercenaries’ actions to the Russian government, said West Point Academy law professor Jennifer Maddocks, emphasizing that the matter remains one of evidence.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant on March 17 for Putin on suspicion of committing war crimes in connection with the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

The Russian dictator could potentially be arrested in 123 countries that have ratified the Rome Statute.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine

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