LONDON (Reuters) -The International Criminal Court (ICC) had to take action against Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes but the move was a “sombre” one and not a moment for backslapping, the organisation’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday.
Last Friday, the ICC accused Putin of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. Moscow rejects the charges, calling the move unacceptable and saying it had no legal force in Russia which is not an ICC member.
“It’s a moment … not for triumphalism, not for any backslapping,” Khan told international justice ministers meeting in London to discuss scaling up support for the ICC.
“It is really a very sad occasion and a very sombre occasion, that for the first time ever, judges of the International Criminal Court, of any court, have felt it necessary to issue warrants against a leader and senior state officials from a permanent member of the (U.N.) Security Council.”
Russia has not concealed a programme under which it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, but presents it as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.
“I say repatriate the children, return the children, reunite the children,” Khan said. “If there is any semblance of truth to the utterances that this is for the sake of children, instead of giving them a foreign passport, return them to the countries of their nationality.”
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin told the meeting his office had launched investigations into more than 72,000 incidents of alleged war crimes and would soon sign an agreement to establish an ICC field office in Ukraine.
“Getting a suspect into the dock of the ICC could be a challenge,” Kostin said. “Therefore now the burden is on states to closely cooperate with the court.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping flew into Moscow on Monday, the first national leader to shake Putin’s hand since the warrant was issued, with Beijing saying the warrant reflected double standards on the ICC’s behalf.
“It’s not ICC on our side or Ukraine’s side … but it’s the rule of law on our side,” Ukraine’s minister of justice Denys Maliuska said.
Britain has pledged 1 million pounds ($1.22 million) to the ICC this year and the justice ministry said other countries were expected to pledge financial support during the conference, which is being co-hosted by Britain and the Netherlands.
The funding will go towards training for investigators to examine alleged war crimes, as well as psychological and practical support for victims, the ministry said.
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(Reporting by Alistair Smout, Michael Holden and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Bernadette Baum)