Tuesday, June 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Chief ICC prosecutor tells Russia to return Ukrainian children

Last week, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin accusing him of committing war crimes by overseeing the deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.

LONDON (CN) — Justice ministers from more than 30 governments traveled to London on Monday to rally support for the International Criminal Court, whose chief prosecutor called for more financial help for the world’s only permanent court for atrocity crimes and urged Moscow to return stolen Ukrainian children. 

The Hague-based court announced last week that it had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova.

Karim Khan, who was sworn in as the ICC's top prosecutor in 2021, believes the pair are committing war crimes by abducting Ukrainian children with the aim of raising them as Russian. 

“Return the children, repatriate the children,” Khan said directly to Russia during his address at the conference on Monday.

His call came only hours after Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president who is currently serving as the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, threatened to shoot the ICC building with a hypersonic missile. “Citizen judges, look carefully to the sky,” he said on his Telegram channel. 

The conference, first announced in January, was held in an 18th century manor near Buckingham Palace and was co-hosted by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The Dutch pledged a 1 million euro ($1.07 million) donation to fund the ICC's investigation into Ukraine, while the British government offered 395,000 pounds ($484,000). 

Other countries made pledges of their own. The Irish government donated 3 million euros ($3.2 million) to the court, two-thirds of which was earmarked to support victims of the war. 

"The whole country was semi-destroyed by the Russian activities and those damages shall be compensated,” Denys Maliuska, the Ukrainian justice minister, told reporters at the end of the day. 

While international justice activists praised the voluntary contributions, they called on governments to create more permanent funding schemes to support the court’s full mandate.

“ICC member countries should be clear in their commitment to a consistent approach across all situations before the court, including by reinforcing the court’s regular budget, rather than relying on ad hoc contributions when political will and attention is high,” Maria Elena Vignoli of Human Rights Watch said in an emailed statement. 

Ukraine’s representatives also called on the international community to create an ad hoc tribunal for the crime of aggression. The ICC does not have jurisdiction over the act of invading another country and Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute, which created the court in 2002.

"We should not allow for the crime of aggression to go unpunished,” Andriy Kostin, Ukraine's prosecutor general, told reporters. 

Last week,  a United Nations investigation into the conflict in Ukraine concluded that Russia was committing widespread human rights violations, including the forcible deportation of children. The Ukrainian government believes 16,221 Ukrainian children have been taken to Russia since the start of the war. 

Categories: Criminal Government International Law Politics

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.