Could Putin face international justice?
March 17, 2014
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This article, written by former Bosnian foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations Muhamed Sacirbey, explores the potentiality of Russian President Vladimir Putin being deterred from his actions in Crimea and Ukraine by the threat of international justice. Over the past few days, an overwhelming majority, 93% to be exact, of Crimeans voted to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia, a political move that has incited protest from Western powers and perpetrated the application of sanctions on more than two dozen Russian officials. This development has also jeopardized the future of Ukrainian Tartans, who have moved back to their homeland of Crimea and are now under the ominous shadow of ethnic cleansing under Putin’s movement of Russian Imperialism. This has started the discussion of whether or not the International Criminal Court has the ability to put a stop to this.
As we learned in lectures, a few qualifications must be met before the ICC is able to take action. First, the crimes must be of a systemic nature and fall into one of the categories listed in the Rome Statute. Second, either Ukraine or Russia must be unable to try the perpetrators in their own national courts. Sacirbey makes the case that the threat of ICC prosecution may be the most effective way to contain Putin’s territorial ambitions in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. However, I see certain difficulties in this strategy going forward. First, I don’t think enough has happened yet for the ICC to get involved. Yes, it is the most high profile international justice issue in progress right now and yes, one could say that the annexation of Crimea is a breach of national sovereignty, but there have not been any war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide committed yet. Second, I think it would be incredibly difficult to get Putin to come out and answer for his crimes with the public threat of international criminal justice. As we saw in the ICTY, Radovan Karadzic was able to use his national support to go into hiding for years. I think the same case would be for Putin on a larger scale. This is certainly a developing issue; the temporary Ukrainian government has already declared that it will not accept Crimea’s secession, so I think we will have to wait and see if the ICC will gain enough leverage to get involved and stop Russia’s expansion.