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International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Russian military officials Shoigu and Gerasimov

Judges from the International Criminal Court (ICC) have issued arrest warrants for Sergei Shoigu, Russia's former defense minister, and Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff and the commander of all Russian forces in Ukraine. Shoigu, who was moved to the position of Secretary of the Security Council on May 12, 2024, had served as Russia’s defense minister since 2012.

Both arrest warrants were issued based on motions filed by prosecutors at The Hague, where the Pre-Trial Chamber II found that there were sufficient grounds to believe that Shoigu and Gerasimov were responsible for missile strikes carried out by the Russian forces against Ukrainian energy infrastructure “from at least Oct. 10, 2022, until at least Mar. 9, 2023.”

The Pre-Trial Chamber II found that several of the strikes in question were directed against civilian targets, and that for those facilities that could be qualified as military targets, the expected collateral damage to civilians would have been excessive when compared to the likely military utility of striking them.

Shoigu and Gerasimov are not the first Russian officials to be accused of war crimes in connection with their country’s invasion of Ukraine. In March 2023, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner. Many countries, even from among Russia’s allies, recognize this decision as legitimate. The Constitutional Court of Armenia, for one, deemed it lawful to accept the ICC’s jurisdiction on its territory. Russian authorities, however, have refused to acknowledge the decision as legal, and Russia’s Investigative Committee has even initiated criminal proceedings against the ICC prosecutor who brought the case.

As in the case of Putin and Lvova-Belova, proceedings against Shoigu and Gerasimov cannot begin until the suspects are physically present in The Hague. Unsurprisingly, the Russian state has given no indication that it is prepared to extradite its top officials to face war crimes charges.

Previously, lawyers from the Agora International Human Rights Group explained how Putin’s prosecution by the ICC is different from the Nuremberg trials, which legal approach might be used in the future to prosecute Russian propagandists, and why legal liability may attach to military personnel who follow criminal orders.

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