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Putin behind bars: This is how he can be punished for the Ukraine war


Vladimir Putin is a criminal. But proving that is not easy. We clarify for you the most important questions about possible criminal prosecution.

Vladimir Putin is a criminal.

But proving that is not easy.

We clarify for you the most important questions about possible criminal prosecution.

Marburg/Cologne – Vladimir Putin is guilty.

After a year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, most people would probably agree with that sentence.

But in order to prove this, a flawless legal investigation is required.

Since the outbreak of war, evidence for criminal prosecution has been collected and scenarios have been played out as to how the Russian ruler could be held accountable.

It's not easy, a possible conviction could even be new legal territory.

But what could Vladimir Putin be accused of anyway?

The most promising currently is an indictment based on the crime of aggression, also known as the crime of aggressive war.

It is a violation of the United Nations Charter and automatically a leadership crime, a typical crime of the head of state.

It can therefore only be committed by the central political and military leadership, says Professor Stefanie Bock from the International Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials in



Munich Merkur


"Proving that is much easier and more obvious than bringing Putin to justice for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity," says Bock.

In addition: “In this case, the crime of aggression is the root of all evil.

All war crimes, all crimes against humanity that we see in Ukraine can be traced back to the fact that this aggression took place in the first place,” the international law expert states.

Ukraine war: How can Vladimir Putin be charged?

Several suggestions are circulating

In short, the UN Charter provides that no country has to invade another.

Aggressive wars are forbidden and therefore the International Criminal Court in The Hague can act not only for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, but also for the crime of aggression.

In all likelihood, there would already be sufficient evidence to bring the Kremlin boss to justice for this crime, says Bock.

So why not do it?

The International Criminal Court's competence in this case is very limited.

Because he can only prosecute the crime of aggression if the state that committed the aggression has ratified the statute of the International Criminal Court.

Russia doesn't have that.

This could be circumvented by the UN Security Council instructing the International Criminal Court to do so.

Which Russia, as a permanent member, would very likely block with its veto right.

Which brings you to the question: Who could even bring charges against Putin because of the Ukraine war?

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), herself an expert in international law, submitted two proposals at the beginning of the year.

The first is the formation of a special international tribunal based on Ukrainian law and supplemented by international elements.

So an extra criminal court to accuse the Russian aggression.

Kiev has also been working for months on the formation of an international special tribunal based on the model of the Nuremberg trials.

The second, and less likely, possibility is the medium-term reform of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as Baerbock also suggested.

However, it is questionable how realistic this conversion actually is.


People walk past a work by Italian street artist TvBoy depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin in prison in Barcelona.


Special tribunal for Russian leaders: UN resolution would be new territory in international law

For this, the International Criminal Court would have to be changed in such a way that aggression crimes can be better punished.

Expert Bock sees this critically.

Few states have even ratified the aggression regulations.

“At first glance, a special court is the easier way in terms of international law.

Ukraine has an undeniable right to criminalize the war of aggression waged against it as a country,” says Bock.

However, there are several weaknesses in the hybrid variant Baerbocks.

Firstly, the question of whether the attacked state can judge objectively and neutrally.

Then there are the immunities.

Under the troika principle, heads of state, heads of government and foreign ministers, who enjoy absolute immunities, cannot be tried in national courts.

However, before international courts, such as the International Criminal Court.

A special tribunal would have to be designed in such an international way that it can override absolute immunities.

This is difficult.

Because there were cases in which the UN Security Council lifted immunities, as happened at the tribunals it set up on Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

But that is not possible with Russia because the UN Security Council is unable to act due to the Russia veto.

This could possibly be solved by a resolution of the UN General Assembly - but that would be new territory in international law, says Bock.

But even if the "how" leaves many questions unanswered, a kind of special investigator should already be collecting evidence of the aggression crime.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced the establishment of an "international center for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine" in The Hague.

Russia's war against Ukraine: Expert considers internationalized tribunal to be the most likely path

Despite all the hurdles, an internationalized tribunal for the prosecution of the crime of aggression is most likely for the expert Stefanie Bock.

Even if hardly anyone can actually imagine seeing Putin in a dock, Stefanie Bock is convinced: "We have seen so many unrealistic things in international criminal law.

When the first international criminal law efforts began in the Second World War, nobody expected that we would one day end up in Nuremberg.

Ten years ago, we did not expect to see members of the Assad regime in the dock in Koblenz, or that German courts would hold those responsible for the Yazidi genocide accountable.”

Improbable is not impossible, especially in international criminal law.

Merely such considerations to prove Vladimir Putin's guilt is an acknowledgment of the injustice he is doing to Ukraine.

As stated in Chapter One, Article 2.4 of the United Nations: "In their international relations, all Members shall refrain from any threat or use of force directed against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State or otherwise incompatible with the purposes of the United Nations."

However, the most significant sign so far was sent by the International Criminal Court on Friday (March 17): it issued an arrest warrant against the Russian ruler for his responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine.

The court said an arrest warrant had been issued against Putin for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Apparently, the ICC succeeded in proving the chain of command up to Putin - in the case of other crimes this was not possible until now.

All 123 member states are obliged to comply and extradite him to The Hague should Putin enter their country.

Vladimir Putin's radius of movement has narrowed considerably.

List of rubrics: © JOSEP LAGO/AFP

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2023-03-22

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