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A few days ago, International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said:

Today, the Pre-Trial Chamber has issued arrest warrants in relation to the following two individuals:

  • Mr Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation; and
  • Ms Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.

On the basis of evidence collected and analysed by my Office pursuant to its independent investigations, the Pre-Trial Chamber has confirmed that there are reasonable grounds to believe that President Putin and Ms Lvova-Belova bear criminal responsibility for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, contrary to article 8(2)(a)(vii) and article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute.

Incidents identified by my Office include the deportation of at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and children’s care homes. Many of these children, we allege, have since been given for adoption in the Russian Federation. The law was changed in the Russian Federation, through Presidential decrees issued by President Putin, to expedite the conferral of Russian citizenship, making it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families.

I was a bit surprised by the particular charge, as I've followed acts such as the bombardment of (dual-use) civil infrastructure (energy, railways), and have heard allegations of intentional targeting of civilians in some cases, but this is the first I've heard of this movement-of-children thing.

What evidence has the court based its decision to issue arrest warrants on?

In particular, evacuating children from war-zones is something which I would assume happens, so what is the indication that children were moved where it is not allowed to move them, and with the intention of not returning them? Does it have something to do with the question of the recognition of the LPR and DPR as independent states and their later accession to the Russian Federation, after which orphans may perhaps have been treated as "any Russian orphan", without care to let them stay within the territories of the LPR/DPR?

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    Is this answer sufficient? Mar 21, 2023 at 8:09
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    @einpoklum Evidence is here Mar 21, 2023 at 9:07
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    @TadeuszKopec I think the OP is rather asking about the legal evidence that the Prosecutor is going to present in the court. And there are reasons to believe it can be only disclosed in the court, not earlier. Mar 21, 2023 at 11:35
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    "this is the first I've heard of this movement-of-children" It was in the news several times though. Not saying that everyone has to have heard of it, but one could have. Obviously the treatment of Civilians during a war is an extremely sensitive matter. The absolute minimum should be the Geneva convention in this regard. Mar 21, 2023 at 14:42
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    Changing citizenship would appear to support the allegation of "intention of not returning them". And that seems itself to cross the line into a prohibited movement, there's no this AND ALSO that required.
    – Ben Voigt
    Mar 21, 2023 at 21:59

3 Answers 3

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What evidence has the court based its decision to issue arrest warrants on?

It is not disclosed.
The Rome Statute 58(3) does not require so.
From the Rome Statute 58(1)(b)(ii) it follows that the premature disclosure could be deemed undesired/prohibited.


The Rome Statute 58(3) is pretty much specific:

Article 58
Issuance by the Pre-Trial Chamber of a warrant of arrest or a summons to appear
3. The warrant of arrest shall contain:
(a) The name of the person and any other relevant identifying information;
(b) A specific reference to the crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court for which the person's arrest is sought; and
(c) A concise statement of the facts which are alleged to constitute those crimes.

…and nothing beyond that.

This is precisely the format of Karim Khan's statement quoted within the original question: paragraphs 1,2,3 correspond to sections (a),(b),(c).

Additionally,

Article 58
Issuance by the Pre-Trial Chamber of a warrant of arrest or a summons to appear

  1. […] the Pre-Trial Chamber shall, on the application of the Prosecutor, issue a warrant of arrest of a person if […]
    (b) The arrest of the person appears necessary:
    (ii) To ensure that the person does not obstruct or endanger the investigation or the court proceedings;

I am not a lawyer, but from the common sense, I may assume that the premature disclosure of evidence would aid the suspect to obstruct the investigation and thus jeopardize 58(1)(b)(ii).
Therefore, it may be deemed unnecessary, not recommended, harmful, or even prohibited.

Source: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (PDF)


If you are rather interested of hints about what could be the evidence:

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  • Well, that's... kind of terrible, IMHO. It's bad enough that state bodies can arrest me without establishing cause :-(
    – einpoklum
    Mar 21, 2023 at 20:26
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    @einpoklum - Is it standard in your country for all the evidence behind arrest warrants to be made public? I would not assume that lack of publicly divulged information about the evidence for the warrant means that cause has not been established to the satisfaction of the issuing court. There are reasons for this, too: for instance, does one want a suspect who has not been arrested yet to know exactly what your warrant is based on, so that they know what to destroy before they are arrested?
    – Obie 2.0
    Mar 22, 2023 at 1:27
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    @einpoklum similarities with civil law are quite often imperfect. However, if you insist: (1) it is not a neighbor but rather a police officer; (2) a policeman who knocks on your door for your arrest says "Rodion Raskolnikov, you are detained for murder of Alyona Ivanovna." He never says, "here's the axe covered with blood, and Student Pestriakov has already testified against you". (3) Publicly demanding the evidence upon your detention (kakije vashi dokazatelstva) does not even help in movies. :-) Does it make sense? Mar 22, 2023 at 8:22
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    @einpoklum , absolutely. (1) That's exactly why I mentioned that making analogies with civil law is flawed logic. The ICC is in no way a neighbor of Russia. (2) And it was established specifically for cases like this. (3) Also, from various aspects of its sovereignty in no way it follows that the evidence should be presented in front. Q.E.D. Mar 22, 2023 at 10:25
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    @einpoklum: It's worth noting that while they will say why they're charging you with a crime, if the police are using a search warrant, knock or no-knock, they do so not necessarily to charge the person with a crime, but to consider it a possibility the person has evidence of a crime done by someone - not necessarily the person being searched. With no-knock warrants issued when they have a reason to suspect the person may destroy the evidence being searched for. Similarly, as I understand, the policecanarrest a suspect before an investigation is complete on the evidence and testimony. Mar 24, 2023 at 3:47
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Reports first emerged last spring that Ukrainian children in occupied territory were being taken to Russia, and some adopted by Russian families. This includes children taken from Ukrainian state institutions in the occupied areas, children whose parents had sent them to Russian-run “summer camps” from which they never returned, children whose parents were arrested by the Russian occupying authorities, and children who were orphaned by the fighting. Russia has admitted to holding at least 1,400 Ukrainian children it describes as orphans (source, The Guardian).

Many of these Ukrainian children have living relatives, who are desperately searching for them.

Russia has not publicly issued a list of Ukrainian children evacuated and detained. However V. Putin issued a decree that made it quick and easy to adopt Ukrainian children, this is obviously not a secret. Also, Russian officials do not deny Ukrainian children are now in Russia (source, NPR). ICC concluded that "there are reasonable grounds" to suspect this is actually happening (source, the arrest warrant itself):

(...) responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation (under articles 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute). The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022. There are reasonable grounds to believe that.

The United Nation’s prevention of genocide convention prohibits “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”

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  • 1. That doesn't say what the evidence for the claims is, and specifically not what the ICC based the warrant on. 2. AFAIK, and I may be wrong, the Guardian has not had reporters stationed in the Donbass (or Zaporizhya, or Russia etc.), looking into the issue of child deportations. In another news story they link to a report by the USA. Do you believe that it's this report on which the ICC based its warrant?
    – einpoklum
    Mar 21, 2023 at 8:55
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    Russia has itself admitted to holding at least 1,400 Ukrainian children. Hence ICC had reasons to assume this maybe have happened.
    – Stančikas
    Mar 21, 2023 at 8:58
  • 1. Citation needed... 2. There are many people (including children) who are both Russian and Ukranian - ethnicity vs citizenship, or with both states recognizing them as their citizens.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 21, 2023 at 9:52
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    There are two references.
    – Stančikas
    Mar 21, 2023 at 10:31
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    @einpoklum the crime alleged in the arrest warrant does not depend on the children's citizenship or ethnicity but on their place of residence.
    – phoog
    Mar 23, 2023 at 22:49
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Is the indictment public? (As opposed to the press release.) I couldn't find the former. That was not an uncommon strategy for ICTY as well (before apprehending the suspects), as I vaguely recall. Evidence can be destroyed, witnesses suppressed etc. One article notes that ICC itself has done this in the past, e.g. regarding some CAR suspects:

The sealed indictments were invented at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the first contemporaneous international criminal court and thus the predecessor of the ICC, by Louise Arbour, who was chief prosecutor of the ICTY from 1996 till 1999. The ICTY was then in a situation similar to the ICC now: there were many outstanding arrest warrants, partly against high-level suspects, but there had not been arrests for quite some time. [...] So Arbour resorted to the sealed indictments to facilitate and encourage arrests. UN troops that were present in various parts of the former Yugoslavia, could use the element of surprise when executing the arrest warrants. This led to a new series of arrests soon.

and also in this case:

While the ICC has authorized the Registry to publicly disclose the existence of the arrest warrants, the actual text of the warrants remains confidential.

Anyhow, we have somewhat more information in this case than from totally sealed indictments, at least in the form of the press release:

Khan stated that 100s of the children taken from orphanages and children’s care homes in Ukraine have since been given for adoption in the Russian Federation. He added that the law was changed in the Russian Federation through Presidential decrees issued by President Putin to expedite the conferral of Russian citizenship, making it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families. The prosecutor also alleged that these acts demonstrate an intention to remove these children from their own country permanently.

I suspect, based on press coverage of the affair, that an indictment may in part rely on Putin's prior declarations that Ukraine is a fake/country nation in order to establish his intent in regard to those children.

You ask/say:

In particular, evacuating children from war-zones is something which I would assume happens, so what is the indication that children were moved where it is not allowed to move them, and with the intention of not returning them?

The NYT for example says:

Mr. Putin instituted a streamlined process in May allowing the swift nationalization of Ukrainian children. The first group became Russian citizens in July, officials announced.

“I did not recognize those kids with whom we traveled in April on the train to their new life,” Ksenia Mishonova, the children’s rights commissioner for the Moscow region, said in a statement. “Now they are our little fellow citizens!”

So it's probably more than simply/temporarily taking the children to Russia that's going to be used as evidence, possibly in an attempt to establish some kind of similarity with more odious precedents. But I'm just guessing, since the ICC has released very little details about their indictment, as far as I can tell.

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    Aren't complaints submitted to the ICC, and the evidence that backs them, supposed to be public?
    – einpoklum
    Mar 21, 2023 at 8:24
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    @einpoklum: isn't that a diffrent Q? The answer seems to be 'no', it isn't. Whether it should be [before an arrest] seems be a matter of opinion. jstor.org/stable/44218540 Mar 21, 2023 at 8:26
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    Wow, I would not have thought that to be the case. I mean, presuming to arrest a head-of-state is a big deal, it honestly seems rather preposterous that the ICC would not need a very solid and publicly available basis in order to expect ICC members to execute such warrants. But ok.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 21, 2023 at 8:35
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    @einpoklum I don’t think anyone really cares about the crime mentioned in the press release. Putin’s actual crime is starting a war of aggression, the “kidnapping” accusation is merely an excuse to bring him to court. Kind of like Al Capone and taxes. Mar 21, 2023 at 12:52
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    @sfxedit the amendment to the Rome Statute that governs the crime of aggression doesn't appear to allow the court to assume jurisdiction over that crime by the invitation of a state that isn't a party to the statute, so it's not likely that it would ever accept charges of aggression against Putin. ("In respect of a State that is not a party to this Statute, the Court shall not exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression when committed by that State’s nationals or on its territory.") Genocide is a different matter.
    – phoog
    Mar 29, 2023 at 10:02

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