Ireland will arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of war crimes in the unlikely event he sets foot in Ireland, the Department of Justice has confirmed.
It comes as Minister for Justice Simon Harris announced €1 million in funding for International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors to assist their investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Ireland may also provide garda, forensic science experts and other justice professionals to assist the investigation.
Last week the ICC announced warrants for the arrest of Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, on charges relating to the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. Forced deportation of children was designated as a war crime by the Rome Statute which established the ICC in 1998.
As a signatory to the Rome Statute, Ireland is legally bound to implement the decisions of the ICC, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.
“As with any case, if Ireland receives a request for the arrest and surrender of a person who is subject to an International Criminal Court arrest warrant, this request will be dealt with in accordance with the ICC Act 2006,” a Department of Justice spokesman told The Irish Times.
There are various reasons why such an occurrence is highly improbable, not least the fact that Putin is highly unlikely to step foot in any country that recognises the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Russia was one of the original signatories of the Rome Statute but never ratified it and went on to withdraw its signature in 2016. Even if it was still a signatory, Russia does not extradite its own citizens.
However, the arrest warrant serves a powerful symbolic purpose and sends a message to Russian officials that they are vulnerable to prosecution if they travel abroad
It also opens the possibility – albeit remote – that a future Russian leader may extradite Putin to The Hague.
On Monday, Mr Harris attended a meeting of justice ministers in London “in support of the International Criminal Court’s efforts to secure accountability for Russian war crimes in Ukraine.”
He announced €1 million in funding for the ICC Office of the Prosecutor and €2 million towards ICC trust funds for the support of victims of war crimes. The makes Ireland one of the leading funding sources for the ICC among EU countries.
Ireland was one of a core group of 43 countries to refer the invasion of Ukraine to the ICC.
“Ireland has been steadfast in its condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression as a grave violation of international law,” Mr Harris said. “We are committed to promoting accountability for violations of international law, including international crimes, arising out of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Also on Monday Ukrainian President Zelenskiy held a 30 minute conversation with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in which he thanked Ireland for its efforts to secure charges against Russian officials.