ICC prosecutor urges Russia to ‘repatriate Ukrainian children’
LONDON: International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan urged countries on Monday to find “the stamina to deliver on justice,” as ministers from dozens of capitals met to discuss boosting support for ICC probes into the war in Ukraine.
The gathering of more than 40 ministers in London follows the issue on Friday of arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova.
They are accused of the war crime of “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Feb 2022. Moscow responded by announcing it had opened its own criminal inquiry into Khan and several ICC judges, branding the warrants “unlawful”. But the ICC chief prosecutor told the London conference that the court’s investigation into the treatment of Ukrainian children was apolitical, independent and one of “the hallmarks of my office”.
“We need to have, collectively, the stamina to deliver on justice,” Khan said, calling the conflict in Ukraine a “moment of a reawakening” for the ICC system.
“This needs to be a moment where we realise if we don’t cling to the law, we may have nothing to cling to in the future.” He also decried arguments made that the thousands of Ukrainian children sent to Russia were “humanitarian” evacuations.
Moscow opens ‘criminal probe’ against ICC after Putin arrest warrant
“The evidence may will tell a different story,” Khan said, imploring Moscow to “repatriate the children”.
“Let them learn their own language in their own schools, instead of being in unfamiliar environments with permanent adoptions by strangers,” he added.
Russia said on Monday that “The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against the prosecutor of the ICC Karim Ahmad Khan” and several ICC judges, the Investigative Committee said, based on their “unlawful” decision to seek Putin’s arrest.
Khan is being investigated on the grounds of “criminal prosecution of a person known to be innocent… and preparation of an attack on a representative of a foreign state enjoying international protection,” the statement from the Investigative Committee said.
The meeting in the UK capital, hosted by justice minister Dominic Raab and his Dutch counterpart Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius, follows repeated ICC calls for more support for its Ukraine probes.
London has already announced additional funding of nearly $488,000 to help pay for psychological support for witnesses and victims of crimes or to hire additional British experts to reinforce the ICC.
Other countries are set to pledge practical and financial support for the court at the conference, according to the UK’s justice ministry. The event also included sessions on evidence gathering and co-ordination to progress investigations, it said.
In 2022, co-host the Netherlands dispatched two forensic investigation teams under the banner of the ICC to collect evidence to be used in investigations into crimes committed in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2023