Russia’s investigative committee says the International Criminal Court knowingly charged an innocent person with a crime, in another show of defiance of the court.
Russia’s highest investigative body has opened a criminal case against the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the judges who issued an arrest warrant against President Vladimir Putin on charges of war crimes.
The move was announced Monday by the State Commission of Inquiry in another gesture of Russian defiance, three days after the ICC charged Putin and its children’s commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova with the war crime of deporting children from Ukraine to Russia.
A day after being impeached, Putin made a surprise visit to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the scene of some of the worst devastation of his years-long invasion of Ukraine.
The commission said there were no grounds for criminal liability on the part of Putin, and that heads of state enjoyed absolute immunity under a 1973 UN treaty.
“The criminal charges are clearly illegal as there are no grounds for criminal liability,” the Russian statement said.
The ICC prosecutor’s actions showed signs of crimes under Russian law, the commission said, including knowingly accusing an innocent person of a crime.
The prosecution and judges were also suspected of “preparing an attack against a representative of a foreign state enjoying international protection, in order to complicate international relations”.
The Kremlin has called the issuance of the ICC order scandalous but legally void, as Russia is not a signatory to the treaty that led to the ICC.
On Monday it said the court’s move was a sign of the “obvious hostility” that exists against Russia and against Putin personally.
ICC President Piotr Hofmanski told Al Jazeera on Friday that it is “completely irrelevant” that Russia is not part of the ICC for issuing the order.
“Under the ICC Statute, which has 123 States Parties, two-thirds of the entire international community, the court has jurisdiction over crimes committed on the territory of a State Party or a State that has accepted its jurisdiction. Ukraine has accepted the ICC twice – in 2014 and then in 2015,” Hofmanski said.
The ICC officials targeted by the Russian investigation are prosecutor Karim Khan, a British lawyer, and judges Tomoko Akane, Rosario Salvatore Aitala and Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez.
The move by the ICC obliges the 123 member states of the court to arrest Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he sets foot on their territory.
Putin is unlikely to take that risk and Russia does not extradite its citizens, but the rare action against a sitting president was an important symbolic step in making him take responsibility for the consequences of his invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine says more than 16,000 children have been illegally transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied territories since the start of the war nearly 13 months ago.
Russia has publicly said it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia in what it portrays as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphaned and abandoned children in the conflict zone.