ICC judges issue two arrest warrants in the context of the situation in Ukraine

Related countries


“I welcome this arrest warrant [for Putin] because it’s [a] historical decision,” says Nobel laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk @avalaina. “This means that @IntlCrimCourt emphasized once again that we have to live in a world where rule of law dictates rules, not brutal force.” pic.twitter.com/24uhhMWrfT

On 17 March 2023, judges of the International Criminal Court issued warrants of arrest against two individuals in the context of the investigation into the situation in Ukraine: Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation, and Ms. Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation. Both are nationals of the Russian Federation.

The Pre-Trial Chamber II (PTC II, or Chamber) judges considered, based on the Prosecution’s application of 22 February 2023, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin and Ms. Lvova-Belova are responsible for the unlawful deportation and the transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, conducts that constitute war crimes under article 8 of the Rome Statute, the Court’s founding treaty.

Ukraine is not a state party to the ICC Rome Statute however, on 17 April 2014, it  accepted the Court’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on its territory from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014. This was done under article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, which enables a State not party to the Statute to accept the exercise of jurisdiction of the Court. On 8 September 2015, Ukraine lodged a second declaration under article 12(3), accepting the ICC's jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes committed in its territory since 20 February 2014.

On the basis of these declarations, between April 2014 and December 2020, the situation in Ukraine was under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor, which focused on alleged crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards.

On 2 March 2022, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC opened an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, following referrals of the situation by 43 ICC states parties to his Office.


ICC arrest warrants may be kept sealed or confidential, or made public. The arrest warrants in relation to the situation in Ukraine issued on 17 March 2023 have not been made public in order to protect victims and witnesses and also to safeguard the investigation. However, the PTC II decided to make public the existence of such warrants, the name of the suspects, the crimes for which the warrants are issued, and the modes of liability. The decision of the judges was made considering that the alleged crimes are ongoing and thus that the awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of more crimes from being committed.

After the issuance of the arrest warrants, the ICC Prosecutor noted that his Office “underlined in [its] application that most acts in this pattern of deportations were carried out in the context of the acts of aggression committed by Russian military forces against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine which began in 2014.”

The International Criminal Court can exercise its jurisdiction with respect to Rome Statute crimes where the alleged perpetrator is a national of a State Party to the ICC Statute or when the alleged crime was committed on the territory of a State Party to the ICC statute. Similarly, a State that has not ratified the Rome Statute can accept the jurisdiction of the ICC (article 12.3 of the Rome Statute) which is the case of Ukraine.

These two arrest warrants in relation to the situation in Ukraine are part of a total of 17 pending arrest warrants, issued against 16 individuals by ICC judges. All States Parties to the Rome Statute, as well as those who have accepted the Court’s jurisdiction - such as Ukraine - have an obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC in its investigation and prosecution of Rome Statute crimes (part 9 of the ICC Rome Statute). Based on other sources of law, including domestic legislation, international treaties, customary law or decisions by the UN Security Council, States not parties to the Rome Statute may also have the obligation to arrest and surrender individuals sought by the ICC, or to prosecute the same crimes.

Official Reactions

The President of Ukraine welcomed the issuance of the two arrest warrants.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson stated that “Russia has never been a member of the International Criminal Court. Russia does not cooperate with the International Criminal Court, nor will it ever do so, despite calls we are hearing from them.”

Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against the ICC Prosecutor and the judges of PTC II. Following these threats and measures by the Russian authorities against the Court and its officials, the Presidency of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute reaffirmed the Assembly’s full confidence in the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution and reiterated its strong commitment to uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity undeterred by any threats. The ASP Presidency called on all States to respect the Court’s judicial and prosecutorial independence.

The European Union condemned the threats against the Court, and reaffirmed its commitment “to defending the Court from any outside interference aimed at obstructing the course of justice and undermining the international system of criminal justice”.

On 23 March 2023, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Kostin Andriy, and the Registrar of the International Criminal Court, Peter Lewis, signed a cooperation agreement on the establishment of an ICC country office in Ukraine.


From Ukraine

The issuance of the warrants generated reactions from civil society in Ukraine and around the world.

The Coalition of NGOs Tribunal for Putin” welcomed the arrest warrants and “called on the governments of the world to support and facilitate this decision and stresses the necessity for Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute.”

“I welcome this arrest warrant [for Putin] because it’s [a] historical decision,” says Nobel laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk @avalaina. “This means that @IntlCrimCourt emphasized once again that we have to live in a world where rule of law dictates rules, not brutal force.” pic.twitter.com/24uhhMWrfT

— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) March 22, 2023

“I welcome this arrest warrant [for Putin] because it’s [a] historical decision,” says Nobel laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk @avalaina. “This means that @IntlCrimCourt emphasized once again that we have to live in a world where rule of law dictates rules, not brutal force.” pic.twitter.com/24uhhMWrfT

— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) March 22, 2023

For the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG), the arrest warrant against Putin “sends a vital signal, however Russia began committing that war crime in 2014.”

“The decision of the ICC is a historic step” said JurFem in a statement, adding that “this is only the beginning of a long road to restoring justice for Ukraine.”

"We cannot allow children to be treated as if they are the spoils of war." Thank you, @KarimKhanQC, for the statement.https://t.co/UPW0HPxm3v

— Media Initiative for Human Rights (@mihr_ua) March 17, 2023

“The Prosecutor emphasized children were transferred to Russian families and were granted Russian citizenship in the context of war aggression. Such facts reveal deportation as a part of a bigger crime – genocide – the forceful transfer of children of the Ukrainian group to the Russian one,” tweeted the Coalition of NGOs "Ukraine 5AM". For them, crucial steps to follow are “international attention and condemnation of genocide, arms, and sanctions, establishment of tribunal for aggression, warrant execution and expansion of the list of suspects, and finally the return of children and thorough reintegration policy.”

(1/12)The Arrest warrant of the @IntlCrimCourt was issued for #Putin and Lvova-Belova for the #deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.The Prosecutor emphasized children were transferred to Russian families,and were granted Russian citizenship in the context of war aggression

— Ukraine 5AM Coalition (@Ukraine5am) March 24, 2023

The Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group (ULAG) stated: “Hopefully it will help putting the spotlight on the issue of children’s suffering during armed conflicts. Not just in Ukraine, but globally."

First #ICC arrest warrants against Putin and Lvova-Belova are about the deportation of children.

Hopefully it will help putting the spotlight on the issue of children’s suffering during armed conflicts. Not just in #Ukraine, but globally. https://t.co/MMHCczogCk

— ULAG (@ULAGroup) March 17, 2023

Nadia Volkova, from ULAG, also expressed that “The ICC arrest warrant is positive, but security concerns must be considered while we’re in an active phase of hostilities.”

"For all Ukrainians, this is a very big hope that justice, which we often talk about, is not merely a ghost or illusion; this is a very concrete big step towards achieving it,” said Tetiana Pechonchyk, head of the board of Zmina human rights NGO.

How soon will Putin end up in the Hague and how does this impact Ukraine’s plan for a special Tribunal against the Russian leadership? Tetiana Pechonchyk @penshark, head of @zminaUkraine, explainshttps://t.co/awEevn5wbM

— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) March 18, 2023


From around the world

“Cooperation by States Parties to the ICC Statute with the Court is essential for the delivery of its mandate and in particular for the execution of arrest warrants against Mr. Putin and Ms. Lvova-Belova, and the 13 other individuals still sought by the Court in its other investigations,” said Virginie Amato, Head of Program and Advocacy at the Coalition for the ICC.  “It is now time for Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute without delay to advance justice for and show solidarity with victims of serious international crimes around the world” Amato added.

“The arrest warrants are an impressive first step, but they are so far limited to the war crime of unlawful deportation of children. This doesn’t reflect the plethora of war crimes and crimes against humanity for which the Russian leadership is potentially responsible,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “We expect the ICC and other justice actors to issue further arrest warrants as their investigations into crimes under international law committed in Ukraine begin to show results.”

The Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP) welcomed the arrest warrants as a “a positive act towards promoting international criminal justice” and “renews its call on the governments of Arab countries to expedite ratification and accession to the International Criminal Court, in order to support international criminal justice, and to contribute to combating impunity for perpetrators.”

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomed the issuance of arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court. "The issuance of these arrest warrants marks a significant milestone for international justice and the fight against impunity. It is now evident that Heads of States cannot use immunity as a shield for themselves,” said Mazen Darwish, Secretary General of FIDH. See the full FIDH statement here.

The Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect referred to the issuing of arrest warrants as a “historic” event and stressed that “all 123 countries that are States Parties to the Rome Statute are now under the legal obligation to arrest President Putin or Lvova-Belova if they were to travel to their country.”

“This is a big day for the many victims of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014,” said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “The court’s warrants are a wakeup call to others committing abuses or covering them up that their day in court may be coming, regardless of their rank or position.”

“Today’s ICC arrest warrants are a major milestone in the fight to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its war of aggression on Ukraine and the wanton war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces over the past year,” said Saman Zia-Zarifi, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights. “We call on the global community to enforce the arrest warrants and ensure that Putin is held to account,” Zia-Zarifi added.

The arrest warrants give “a very powerful message to the international community,” said Elsa Taquet, Ukraine coordinator at Trial International.


See previous CICC resources: