(Ottawa) The International Criminal Court (ICC) has not engaged in a battle that it would not be able to fight by issuing an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. This was argued by his prosecutor Karim Khan on Friday during his first official visit to Canada.
“I understand why some say it’s an impossible mission, but people also thought it would be impossible to indict or even arrest ex-president Milošević,” he replied at a press conference.
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević died in his cell at The Hague detention center in 2006. He was facing charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The legal proceedings had then been going on since 2002.
Mr. Khan listed other torturers pinned down by international justice for crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, during the genocide in Rwanda or under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. He also cited the conviction of the former dictator of Chad Hissène Habré, as well as the ex-president of Liberia Charles Taylor, for whom he had been the defense lawyer in 2006.
“So we are doing our job and the international community should be doing theirs,” he continued. This moment is a decisive test. Are we content with lip service or do we want to act collectively in 2023 to eliminate these crimes of international concern? »
A first underlined by the international press since the Court had never issued an arrest warrant against a head of state in office and whose country is a member of the Security Council of the United Nations Organization (UN).
However, this arrest warrant may be difficult to enforce. South Africa, which will host the BRICS summit in August, seems reluctant to arrest Mr. Putin if he decides to attend. Its president Cyril Ramaphosa had indicated last week that the country could rather leave the ICC before changing its mind through the mouth of its spokesperson.
Mr. Khan said he was hopeful that the country of Nelson Mandela, which defeated “the terrible crime of apartheid”, would realize “what it means to suffer, to lose your rights, to be subjugated” and that he was going to enforce the law. He noted that the ICC could also hold Vladimir Putin’s trial in absentia.
The official visit of the international prosecutor to Canada aims to strengthen support for the ICC in this tumultuous context. Canada increased its funding to $2 million in December, making it its top contributor.