Could Vladimir Putin end up being charged with war crimes? Russian leader is set to be investigated over Ukraine invasion as revulsion for his atrocities grows around the world
- Lawyers at International Criminal Court revealed are preparing for a full inquiry
- Boris Johnson said evidence of war crimes would be collated and used
- Justice Secretary Dominic Raab urged Russian commanders to disobey orders that break international law
Vladimir Putin faces being tried for war crimes, international prosecutors said last night as global revulsion for his atrocities grows.
Lawyers at the International Criminal Court revealed they were preparing for a full inquiry ‘as rapidly as possible’.
Boris Johnson said: ‘There’s no doubt that [Putin] is already using barbaric tactics, bombing civilian areas.
‘I have seen the reports about cluster bombs and thermobaric weapons.’
‘Everybody involved in the Russian onslaught should understand that all this will be collated in evidence to be used at a future time in what could be proceedings before the International Criminal Court.’
Vladimir Putin faces being tried for war crimes, international prosecutors said last night as global revulsion for his atrocities grows
Speaking during a visit to Poland, yesterday, he added that the Russian president had decided to ‘send missiles into tower blocks, to kill children, as we are seeing in increasing numbers’.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab urged Russian commanders to disobey orders that break international law, adding: ‘There will be no impunity for war crimes.
‘There is a clear determination from the international community to make sure that any war crimes are held to account, whether it is Putin or those around him in Moscow or commanders on the ground.
‘They must know that if they carry out those orders, there is a reasonable prospect… that they will end up spending their twilight years behind bars.’
Mr Raab, a former Foreign Office lawyer, previously worked at the ICC in the Netherlands, helping to bring war criminals to trial.
Asked whether Putin might face trial at the ICC, Mr Raab said: ‘We will not allow those responsible just to sit it out and wait and hope international attention will move elsewhere.
‘We’ve just shown that with Radovan Karadzic, one of the butchers of the Balkans. He ended up, after years, in the dock in The Hague, and he’s now in a British high security prison where he will see out his days.’
The US is also looking at whether Russia has committed war crimes, White House Press secretary Jen Psaki said, citing ‘reports that are horrifying about barbaric tactics, whether it’s cluster bombs or other tactics we’ve seen that could be classified as a war crime’.
Lawyers at the International Criminal Court revealed they were preparing for a full inquiry ‘as rapidly as possible’. Boris Johnson said: ‘There’s no doubt that [Putin] is already using barbaric tactics, bombing civilian areas. I have seen the reports about cluster bombs and thermobaric weapons’
Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said there was ‘indisputable evidence’ of war crimes in Ukraine, and Canada is to petition the ICC to act.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said: ‘Russian forces brutally fired on Kharkiv from jet artillery. It was clearly a war crime.
‘Kharkiv is peaceful, there are peaceful residential areas, no military facilities. Dozens of eyewitness accounts prove this is not a single false volley, but deliberate destruction of people.
‘The Russians knew where they were shooting.
‘There will definitely be an international tribunal for this crime – it’s a violation of all conventions. No one in the world will forgive you for killing peaceful Ukrainian people.’
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, British lawyer Karim Khan, said he expected a full investigation as soon as possible.
An ICC report published just over a year ago found ‘conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity’ relating to Russian acts in Ukraine since 2013.
‘There is a reasonable basis to believe war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in relation to events assessed during the preliminary examination,’ he said.
‘Given the expansion of the conflict, it is my intention that this investigation will encompass any new alleged crimes.’
What allegations could Putin face?
Indiscriminate attacks on civilians would constitute a war crime, as would targeting civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals.
Cluster munitions are widely banned because they are indiscriminate. Russia has been accused of using them against a pre-school in north-eastern Ukraine.
Russia is also said to have used a thermobaric weapon, known as a vacuum bomb, which is also indiscriminate.
Oleg Sinegubov, governor of Kharkiv, said Russia ‘used weapons prohibited by all international conventions’ including cluster bombs.
What has Russia said?
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted yesterday that Russia had not carried out strikes against civilians, and said reports of cluster munitions and vacuum bombs were fabricated.
Where could a trial take place?
The International Criminal Court in The Hague is the likely venue. Set up in 2002 by a treaty called the Rome Statute, it prosecutes war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
What has the ICC said?
Chief prosecutor Karim Khan, a British lawyer, said he would open an investigation ‘as rapidly as possible’. The ICC has been monitoring Ukraine since 2014 in the wake of Russian action there.
Could Putin be tried in his absence?
The ICC has never done this. Its rules state: ‘The accused shall be present during the trial.’
Could an ICC probe harm Putin?
he would become more of a global pariah, and could face arrest outside Russia.
What penalties can the ICC impose?
In 2016 the former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic was found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was jailed for life without parole.