United States President Joe Biden said Vladimir Putin had clearly committed war crimes in Ukraine and the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) issue of an arrest warrant for the Russian president was justified.
Although the US, like Russia, is not a party to the international court, Biden said the ICC had made a strong case against Putin.
“He’s clearly committed war crimes,” Biden told reporters on Friday. “I think it’s justified,” he said, referring to the arrest warrant.
“It’s not recognised internationally by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point,” he added.
The ICC earlier on Friday called for Putin’s arrest on suspicion of his involvement in the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from Ukraine’s occupied areas to Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The court also issued an arrested warrant to Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, on the same charges.
The ICC warrant now obligates the court’s 123 member states to arrest Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory.
The Kremlin said the court’s charges against Putin were outrageous and meaningless with respect to jurisdiction in Russia.
A US-backed report by Yale University researchers last month found that Russia has held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children in at least 43 camps and other facilities as part of a “large-scale systematic network”.
Ukraine’s government recently said more than 14,700 children have been deported to Russia, with more than 1,000 of them from the port city of Mariupol, which was besieged for weeks and all but destroyed.
The US has separately concluded that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine and supports accountability for perpetrators of war crimes, a State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities (in) Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable,” the spokesperson added.
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said in a video statement that while the court’s judges have issued the arrest warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them. The court has no police force of its own to do so.
The ICC can impose a maximum sentence of life imprisonment “when justified by the extreme gravity of the crime”, according to its founding treaty, the Rome Statute. This established the ICC as a permanent court of last resort to prosecute political leaders and other key perpetrators of the world’s worst atrocities – war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.