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Putin is not the first person the International Criminal Court wants to arrest: how did these cases end?

Putin is not the first head of state to be suspected of war crimes by international courts. He became the third sitting head of state to be arrested by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. But presidents have also been prosecuted by other international courts, sometimes after they left office. Meduza.

Photo: IStock

March 18, the ICC in The Hague issued a warrant arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is suspected of illegal deportation of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine. What other most famous cases of the trial of presidents were in world history.

Omar al-Bashir

President of Sudan (1993–2019), de facto head of the country since 1989

What is accused

Omar al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state to have an arrest warrant issued by the ICC in 2009. Al-Bashir was charged with crimes against humanity (individual and mass killings, torture, deportation, rape), as well as war crimes (attacking civilians). These accusations are related to the conflict that began in 2003 in Darfur, a region in western Sudan. According to prosecutors, al-Bashir deliberately sought to destroy the non-Arab tribes living there (while he was not charged with genocide).

How the persecution is organized

Sudan (like Russia, as well as many other countries, including the US and China) did not sign the Rome Statute, on the basis of which the ICC operates, and immediately refused to consider the extradition of the country's president to the court. The position of the Sudanese authorities was supported by international organizations, which include the country - the League of Arab States and the African Union. The ICC, in particular, was accused of "double standards" and "racism". Since the issuance of the warrant, al-Bashir has traveled abroad many times, including China and Russia, where he met with Vladimir Putin. Moreover, the President of Sudan made visits to those countries that, unlike China and the Russian Federation, ratified the Rome Statute - but he was not arrested there either.

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In 2019, al-Bashir was overthrown in a military coup, and two years later the country's new authorities promised to turn him and other war crimes suspects into the hands of the ICC. For now, however, al-Bashir remains under arrest in Sudan. He is charged with corruption in the handling of foreign exchange and money laundering, inciting and complicity in the killing of demonstrators during the anti-government demonstrations that led to his overthrow.

Muammar Gaddafi

Head of Libya (1979–2011)

Photo: IStock

What was he accused of

An arrest warrant for Gaddafi (as well as for the arrest of his son and brother-in-law) was issued in June 2011 at the height of the civil war in Libya. Gaddafi was suspected of crimes against humanity, including the execution of unarmed people in the first days and weeks of mass demonstrations against his regime. Amnesty International published its report, which found that Gaddafi's forces were responsible for numerous war crimes.

How the persecution was organized

As political scientists Viktor Peskin (University of Arizona) and Myacheslav Buduzhinskiy (Pomona College) note, the idea of ​​a full-fledged criminal prosecution of Gaddafi met with great wariness among Western countries. They hoped that the ICC would threaten the Libyan leader, which would force him to negotiate, and would not bring real charges against him. However, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo acted on his own and demanded the arrest of Gaddafi - which never took place because in October 2011 Gaddafi was killed. His son Saif al-Islam has also yet to face trial and, moreover, has returned to Libyan politics.

Laurent Gbagbo

President of Ivory Coast (2000–2011)

What was he accused of

The charges against Gbagbo were brought by the ICC after he was overthrown from the presidency of Côte d'Ivoire by the French military and UN peacekeepers (they were brought into the country after the civil war of the mid-2000s). The reason for the intervention was Gbagbo's refusal to admit his own defeat in the 2010 presidential election (he was opposed by former IMF economist Allasan Ouattara) and the armed conflict that began after that, during which about three thousand people died. The ICC charged Gbagbo with crimes against humanity, including murder and rape.

How the persecution was organized

In November 2011, that is, six months after the overthrow, Gbagbo was taken to The Hague. The trial was supposed to begin in another six months, but was postponed at the request of the defense, which referred to the numerous illnesses of the ex-president, allegedly due to the "cruel and inhuman conditions" of his detention. As a result, the trial began only in 2016, and in 2019 the International Criminal Court in The Hague acquitted the ex-head of state. According to the court, there is insufficient evidence in the Gbagbo case. The prosecution has appealed the decision of the ICC. Two years later, after the acquittal was upheld on appeal, Gbagbo's former opponent Allasan Ouattara (who himself had recently been re-elected for a third term against the constitution) invited him to return to his homeland.

Slobodan Milosevic

President of Serbia (1991-1997), President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1997-2000)

What was he accused of

The accusations against Milosevic, when he was still President of Yugoslavia, were brought forward in 1999 not by the ICC (it was created only in 2002), but by a special tribunal to investigate atrocities committed during the wars in the Balkans (it was he who was often colloquially called The Hague before). tribunal). The International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia investigated serious crimes and acts of genocide committed during armed conflicts that arose after the collapse of a single state.

111 people appeared before the tribunal in The Hague: 90 of them were found guilty. The most famous defendant was former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He was the first head of state to be charged with war crimes against humanity and genocide. The politician was accused of crimes against humanity in Kosovo, where then the Serbian army waged war against the Albanian separatists. Later, accusations of violating the laws of war, as well as the genocide of the Muslim population of Bosnia, were added to this.

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How the persecution was organized

Milosevic also found himself in The Hague after he left his post as a result of mass protests. The trial began in The Hague in 2002, Milosevic announced that he would defend himself. At the trial, he, in particular, developed the theory that Germany was behind the collapse of Yugoslavia. However, Milosevic died in custody before the end of the trial. The Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj (he was acquitted) and the leaders of the unrecognized entities, in particular, Radovan Karadzic and Milan Babic, the presidents of the Republika Srpska, also appeared before the tribunal. Karadzic was sentenced to life imprisonment, Babic to thirteen years in prison. He committed suicide in prison.

Charles Taylor

President of Liberia (1997–2003)

What was he accused of

Taylor was charged by a special court for Sierra Leone, created by agreement between the government of this country and the UN in 2002 to investigate crimes that occurred during the civil war in this neighboring country with Liberia. The fighting continued from 1991 to 2002. Taylor was accused of financing and supporting one of the warring factions in order to take control of the diamond fields. Among the accusations against him was, among other things, the recruitment of persons under the age of 15 to participate in hostilities. Some of these crimes took place during the period when Taylor was not yet formally the head of Liberia, but already controlled a significant part of its territory as a field commander. It is believed that one of the suppliers of weapons to Taylor's troops was Russian businessman Viktor Bout.

How the persecution was organized

Taylor was indicted in the final months of his presidency and was soon deposed and put on trial. He himself categorically denied his guilt, compared his own actions with the policies of US President George W. Bush in the Middle East, and also said that he collaborated with the CIA in the 1980s (US authorities confirmed this data without disclosing details). In 2012, the tribunal (it has judges from around the world, not only Sierra Leone) sentenced Taylor to 50 years in prison. The court took into account that 64-year-old Taylor has already spent 6 years in pre-trial detention, so he has 44 years to serve in prison. The prosecution demanded 80 years in prison. He is serving his sentence in the UK.

Hissen Habré

President of Chad (1982–1990)

What was he accused of

All accusations relate to events that took place in the 1980s, when Habré served as president of the Republic of Chad and fought against the Libyan forces supported by Muammar Gaddafi. Habré was accused of crimes against humanity, rape, slave labor, and kidnapping. According to human rights activists, the former president is responsible for the deaths of 42 people.

How the persecution was organized

The first accusations against Habré in connection with massive violations of human rights during his presidency were officially brought in 2005, when he had already lived in exile in Senegal for many years. This was done by Belgium, which referred to the right of universal jurisdiction - that is, the ability to prosecute a person for the most serious and massive crimes, regardless of his citizenship and place of residence. In 2012, the International Court of Justice ordered Senegal to bring Habré to justice, and the following year the African Union created an emergency court that eventually sentenced him to life in prison. The former dictator did not recognize either the legality of the trial or his guilt, accusing France of organizing the trial (Chad was its colony).

Hashim Thaci

President of Kosovo (2016–2020)

What is accused

In June 2020, Hashim Thaci, at that time the President of the partially recognized Republic of Kosovo, was charged with ten episodes of war crimes, including murder, disappearances, torture, and persecution of opponents. All of them were committed during the period of Kosovo's struggle for independence at the end of the 1990s (at that moment he was just one of the leaders of the separatists). The accusations were filed by a specialized prosecutor's office created by the Kosovo authorities at the insistence of the European Union to investigate the crimes of the Kosovar rebels.

How the persecution is organized

In November 2020, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci announced his resignation, and then voluntarily went to The Hague as a defendant, along with three of his alleged accomplices.

“Under no circumstances can I afford to stand trial as President of the Republic of Kosovo. Thus, in order to protect the dignity of the presidency, the country and citizens, I am leaving the presidency of the Republic of Kosovo,” he said at a press conference in Pristina.

“This is not an easy moment for me, my family and all those who supported me and believed in me throughout our 30-year struggle for freedom, independence and nation building,” Thaci added.

He does not consider himself guilty. Most Kosovar Albanians find the war against “Serbian oppression” in self-defence.

The trial is due to begin in April 2023. Among the final accusations, there was no trafficking in human organs, which had long been accused of former Kosovo separatists.

Karl Doenitz

Reich President of Germany (April 29 - May 23, 1945)

What was he accused of

Admiral Karl Dönitz became Hitler's official successor when he committed suicide on April 29, 1945. Formally, he led the German government until May 23. At the Nuremberg trials, he was accused of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In fact, he was the first head of state (albeit formal and by that time already former), against whom the mechanisms of modern international justice were activated.

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How the persecution was organized

The key episodes of the accusations against Dönitz concerned the sinking of civilian ships during the Second World War in violation of the conventions in force at that time on the conduct of war at sea. He himself denied all the accusations and called them "fictions of the Americans", but later stated that he was "satisfied" with the fact that the leadership of the Third Reich was put on trial. As a result, the Nuremberg Tribunal sentenced Doenitz to 10 years in prison.

Doenitz served a 10-year sentence in the Spandau prison in Berlin. In conversations with the American prison psychiatrist Dr. Leon Goldenson, he dreamed: “I will buy myself a small apartment and live there with my wife, shutting myself off from the rest of the world, writing my memoirs.

I think I should do it for the German people. So that they themselves can understand what really happened and how few of us in the leadership of the country knew about the atrocities of Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.”

On October 1, 1956, having fully served his sentence, Doenitz was released.

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