Could Putin end up convicted of committing war crimes?
The difficulties for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to face an international tribunal are maximum. Although there are several ways to investigate and determine whether war crimes have been committed in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Through the International Court of Justice based in The Hague. The government of Volodimir Zelenski accuses Moscow of violating the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (1948), ratified by both Ukraine and Russia. But Russia has not even stepped in the cause, and the reality seems to confirm that the Russian Federation does not feel concerned by the decisions of this body.
Through the International Criminal Court. It is a permanent international court whose mission is precisely to try people accused of committing crimes of genocide, war, aggression and crimes against humanity. It entered into force on 1 July 2002 after its ratification by 60 countries, including Spain, although it has notable absences including the Russian Federation itself, which does not recognize its jurisdiction like other major powers, such as the United States or China.
Via the United Nations. If the UN turns over its work in the commission of inquiry to a hybrid international war crimes tribunal to try the Russian president.
Create a special court or tribunal to judge Putin by a group of interested or concerned states and groups, such as NATO, the EU and the U.S. . The Nuremberg military tribunals against Nazi leaders are an example. Although for this first Russia should lose the war and Putin power because it is not very realistic that the Russian dictator surrendered voluntarily.
Some countries have their own laws to prosecute war crimes. Germany, for example, is already investigating Putin. The United States does not have such a law, but the White House has acknowledged that the State Department has opened an investigation to clarify what crimes the Russian president might have committed in Ukraine.
The European Court of Human Rights is a strictly European institution. Its seat is in Strasbourg. It adjudicates cases that confront individuals against states that may be sentenced to pay a fine for violating an article of the European Convention on Human Rights. Since the beginning of its activity, Russia has received almost 3,000 convictions for violations of that Convention. In addition, on 16 March the Council of Europe expelled Russia, in an unprecedented decision due to the invasion of Ukraine.
As to where Putin might be judged, it is unclear. Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and would not send any suspects to the seat of the court in The Hague, the Netherlands. However, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, has already opened an investigation, because he believes that war crimes have been committed. That was the ICC’s response to 39 countries, including Spain, that requested this investigation.
In any case, for any of the proceedings to succeed, Putin would have to be arrested in a country that accepted the authority of the International Criminal Court. Something that in the present circumstances seems impossible. In the world of hypotheses it could happen that Putin was deposed and voluntarily handed over by Russia for trial. In that case he could be prosecuted in a country chosen by the UN or by a consortium of interested countries.