Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today welcomes the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrants against Vladmir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, and Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President, for the war crimes of unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas in Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
The following statement is attributable to Saman Zia-Zarifi, JD, LLM, executive director of PHR:
“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. This marks a historic moment for Ukraine and for the international human rights movement.
“We call on the global community to enforce the arrest warrants and ensure that Putin is held to account. Even sitting heads of state are not above the law.
“For all too long, crimes perpetrated against children, who are among the most vulnerable members of society, have been overlooked and rarely prosecuted in national or international courts. We hope these arrest warrants will lead to further investigations and meaningful justice for child survivors, both in Ukraine and in other conflicts around the globe.
“The forcible abduction and transfer of children from Ukraine are unconscionable and brutal crimes. We salute the ICC for acting swiftly to issue these warrants and seeking to hold Putin and others in command to account. We also applaud the Ukrainian survivors and witnesses for bravely sharing their testimonies with the Court, as well as the Ukrainian and international investigators who have documented these abuses.
“Russia has targeted Ukrainian civilians as a barbaric strategy of war. PHR, alongside our Ukrainian and international partners, has documented at least 707 attacks on health facilities, personnel, and other health care infrastructure during the first year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, including numerous attacks on energy infrastructure that have impeded access to life-saving health care for Ukrainians. This equates to an appalling average of more than two attacks on health care each day from February 24-December 31, 2022.
“Our documentation shows that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the documented attacks on health care constitute war crimes and comprise a course of conduct that could potentially constitute crimes against humanity as well. We hope to see the ICC soon investigate the Russian Federation’s attacks on civilian infrastructure, including health care facilities and personnel, and hold all perpetrators to account.”
“The Russian Federation’s pattern of atrocities in Ukraine has precedents in Russia’s past acts of war. From Syria to Georgia to Chechnya, Russian forces have perpetrated a broad range of attacks on civilians, including violence against health workers and facilities. We call on the ICC and additional accountability mechanisms to respond quickly and with equal resolve to other situations around the world where Russia or other perpetrators have violated international law.
“May these arrests warrants be the first of many issued by the ICC. Survivors in Ukraine and around the world deserve meaningful and timely justice.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.