haldar19_ Beata ZawrzelNurPhoto via Getty Images_wanted putin Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Wanted: Vladimir Putin

The realm of international law has long been compared to the Wild West, because there is no global sheriff. But regardless of whether Russia’s president ends up in handcuffs, the International Criminal Court’s indictment of him is a big step in the right direction.

LONDON – The internet has recently been flooded with AI-generated images of Russian President Vladimir Putin being put on trial or incarcerated. But while the images are fake, international criminal justice is becoming a reality. On March 17, after years of being mired in controversy and crisis, the International Criminal Court surprised the world by formally indicting Putin and issuing a warrant for his arrest.

The ICC’s specific charge – that Putin is responsible for the unlawful abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia, in violation of both the Rome Statute and the Geneva Conventions – addresses only a fraction of the offenses he has committed. Putin and his inner circle are morally, and probably legally, responsible for countless war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide. Yet, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky observed, the warrant represents “a historic decision,” not because it guarantees an arrest or trial, but because it sets a new precedent.

Although Putin is not the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC – he shares this dubious distinction with despots like former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi – he is certainly the most prominent. After all, unlike Russia, Sudan and Libya are not permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

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