Geneva Convention on war crime

Why in News?


  • The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for war crimes for President Vladimir Putin and a second Russian official.

Why the International Criminal Court did issued the warrants?

  • The court says Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children since Russia’s full-scale invasion.
  • The court also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, who has been the public face of a Kremlin-sponsored program in which Ukrainian children and teenagers have been taken to Russia.

What does the warrant mean for Putin?

  • The court cannot try defendants in absentia and Russia has said it will not surrender its own officials.
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry quickly dismissed the warrants, noting that it is not a party to the court.
  • Still, the warrant for Putin’s arrest deepens his isolation in the West and could limit his movements overseas.
  • If he travels to a state that is a party to the ICC, that country must arrest him, according to its obligations under international law.

What is a war crime?

  • The International Criminal Court in The Hague defines war crimes as “grave breaches” of the post-World War Two Geneva Conventions, agreements which lay out the international humanitarian laws to be followed in war time.
  • Breaches include deliberately targeting civilians and attacking legitimate military targets where civilian casualties would be “excessive”.

Geneva Conventions:

  • The meaning of war crimes was clarified in the four 1949 Geneva Conventions.
  • Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as “wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”.


  • The ICC will issue an arrest warrant if prosecutors can show “reasonable grounds to believe” war crimes were committed.To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor would have to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • For most charges, that requires proving intent. One way to do this would be for a prosecutor to show there were no military targets in the area of an attack and that it was not an accident.

Convictions so far:

  • Since the ICC was formed, it has overseen 30 cases, some with multiple defendants, its website says. ICC judges have convicted five people of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and acquitted four others.
  • Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was convicted in 2012.
  • The court has issued arrest warrants for several defendants who remain at large, including Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army militia group in Uganda.
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