US Senators ask Biden to help ICC with Putin war crimes probe

The US has not agreed to provide information to ICC out of concern that the court could one day scrutinise US officials.

Emergency personnel work at the site where an apartment block was heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Dnipro, Ukraine January 16, 2023. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Emergency personnel work at a site in Dnipro, Ukraine, where an apartment block was heavily damaged by a Russian missile on January 16 [File: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters]

A bipartisan group of United States Senators have asked President Joe Biden to share information with the International Criminal Court (ICC), as it pursues charges of war crimes against Russian President Vladimir Putin over the “unlawful deportation” of children from Ukraine.

On Friday, six Democratic and Republican Senators sent a letter to Biden urging him to support the ICC, which issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest last week, more than a year after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Despite the urgent need to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable, as evidenced by the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin, recent reporting suggests that your administration has not yet used this new authority to provide much-needed assistance to the ICC’s efforts,” the letter reads.

Biden has previously stated that Russia is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, and the letter calls on his administration to contribute to efforts to hold Putin accountable.

However, the United States itself is not a party to the ICC and has consistently denied that the body has authority to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by US forces.

That has put the US in an awkward position, as it calls for accountability for Russian officials while shielding its own actions and those of its allies from similar scrutiny.

Earlier this month, news outlets reported that the US Department of Defense would not share information about Russian atrocities with the ICC, out of concern it could create a precedent that could eventually be applied to US officials accused of war crimes.

The US Congress passed legislation in December easing restrictions on US cooperation with the ICC, but the New York Times reported that debates have continued within the Biden administration over the issue.

Friday’s letter — signed by Democrats Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez, Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse as well as Republicans Lindsey Graham and Thom Tillis — said the administration had “bipartisan support for delivering” on its “promise” to hold Putin accountable.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies