Putin's position would not give him 'immunity' from war crime prosecution, says ICC chief prosecutor

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By Shona Murray
International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan KC during an interview with Euronews on Wednesday 12th October 2022.
International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan KC during an interview with Euronews on Wednesday 12th October 2022.   -   Copyright  ICC

Vladimir Putin is not immune from war crimes prosecution if the evidence points towards him, according to the International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor.

Karim A. A. Khan KC, who is currently investigating offences on the ground in Ukraine, told Euronews that the Russian president's position would not allow him to escape with impunity.

"Neither is superior orders a defence, nor is the official position of an individual as a general or as a president or as a prime minister grounds for immunity," the prosecutor said.

"There's no immunity for international crimes, and one of the Nuremberg principles, as you'll know, is that there's no statute of limitations for war crimes or crimes against humanity."

Russia is accused of committing war crimes throughout Ukraine, with rape, murder and torture all being used against the civilian population.

It comes as missile strikes launched on Monday by Moscow killed at least 19 people and wounded 105 in Ukraine.

Khan said these kind of attacks are unacceptable if found to be true.

"One thing is clear: you cannot deliberately, intentionally target civilian objects, schools and hospitals, places of residence of civilians unless they're being used to gain a distinct military advantage," he said on Wednesday.

"Even then, there is rule of proportionality. And this is something, you know, applicable.

"Of course, you can extrapolate from that in terms of a variety of different targets, whether they're bridges or energy locations. But spreading terror is not allowed. And then one is to look at things as part of an overall pattern, as opposed to just a one off instances."

The ICC prosecutor also said international law is more relevant than ever, given the current tensions between Russia and the West.

"We're in a very critical moment, the minute leaders talk about using violence, using bombs, using the bullet. It's a matter to pause and think, where are we going? But the minute we talk about tactical nuclear weapons, it's not just the twilight zone. It's the eve of a nightmare. And we need to take it extremely seriously," Khan said.

"I think the law has a role to play. It won't solve all the world's problems, but we need to make sure that it is seen to be relevant in these most critical moments that your viewers are living through, that we're all living through it. This is not a Hollywood movie. This is not something that is some drama. This is something that is up close and personal to too many."

Khan and his joint investigative team are currently looking into war crimes in Ukraine with six EU countries under the umbrella of Eurojust, the bloc's judicial co-operation agency.