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Jonathan Meta

The luck of the Russian

(via Twitter)
(via Twitter)

The expression “the luck of the Irish” is often used to refer to the idea that the Irish are particularly lucky or fortunate. The origin of this phrase, however, is somewhat disputed.

One theory claims that the phrase originated in the United States during the late 19th or early 20th century, when many Irish immigrants faced discrimination and were often forced to take low-paying, dangerous jobs such as working on railroads or in mines. Despite these challenges, many Irish immigrants managed to succeed and prosper, leading to the idea that they were particularly lucky. Actually, their achievements were the result of years of hard work and a relentless pursuit of his goals.

This phrase — which is innocently repeated these days at pubs all over the world — reminds us of a story that should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that things come purely by chance. The Irish managed to succeed and prosper because of their hard work. Likewise, every little achievement should be understood as a result of a process in which the subject did everything in pursuit of his goals.

Last Friday (17.3), ironically on St. Patrick’s Day, an arrest warrant was issued against one of the most important world leaders at the time, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, by the International Criminal Court. A deserved achievement for a great man.

In a statement, a Prosecutor of the ICC explained that the arrest warrant was issued on the basis of evidence collected and analyzed by the Prosecution Office pursuant to its independent investigations, confirming that there are reasonable grounds to believe that President Putin bears criminal responsibility for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.

The Prosecutor closed his statement in a note that should frighten not only Putin, but also those who decide to follow the luck of the Russian. He said that “whilst today is a first, concrete step with respect to the Situation in Ukraine, my Office continues to develop multiple, interconnected lines of investigation.” In other words, he is telling Putin not to worry, since more charges are coming.

The Russian reactions to this arrest warrant were not surprising: former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev compared the warrant to toilet paper, saying that there is “no need to explain WHERE this paper should be used”.

The tricky part comes when understanding how this arrest warrants can be enforced. Because Russia is not a signed member of the ICC, there is very little chance that Vladimir Putin will appear at The Hague easily. For this, the ICC relies on the cooperation of governments to arrest people, since obviously the Russian Police is not going to be knocking on Putin’s door tomorrow morning.

Nevertheless, the arrest warrant does make him an international pariah, since it prevents him from traveling to any of the 123 States that signed the Statute of Rome, that created the ICC. According to the Statute, those States are obliged to make the arrest no matter who the accused is.

Although this may seem far from real, there is a precedent that should worry Putin: in 1999, the United Nations Yugoslav Tribunal for war crimes committed in Bosnia issued an arrest warrant against the then sitting President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic. As he continued to hold onto power and sacrifice the lives of young Serb men in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, more and more citizens and army members grew weary of his authoritarian rule. As a result, his backing weakened, and in June 2001, Serb authorities arrested him based on the international arrest warrant. He was then taken to The Hague to stand trial for his involvement in international crimes. To be extremely clear: the arrest warrant not only puts the pressure on Putin but also on the people around him.

Another detail that has to be pointed out are the rules of admissibility of a case. Here, the Rome Statute defines one of its most important principles of jurisdiction, known as the principle of complementarity. This principle is enshrined in Article 17 of the Rome Statute and states that the ICC may only intervene and exercise jurisdiction over a case if the national legal system is “unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.”

This means that according to Article 17, the ICC can give priority to the primary jurisdiction of the State in question. Nevertheless, the Court must act when it determines that the national legal system is unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the investigation or prosecution, or if there are no proceedings taking place. In such cases, the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction over the relevant international crimes.

The person that should be paying attention to this process is Netanyahu. First of all, because, like Olaf Scholz said, this shows that nobody is above the law. Second, because -as we said before- the charges not only put pressure on the accused person, but also in anyone who stands around him. Third, and more relevant to our times, because one of the special situations that gives jurisdiction to the ICC is that the Russian legal system is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution. This means that weakening the Judicial branch is not only a local problem but its ramifications could get us to one of the most difficult international crisis.

In March 2021, when issuing a statement regarding the investigation of crimes committed in Palestine, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC explained that “in In the current Situation, however, there is a reasonable basis to proceed and there are admissible potential cases. Our assessment will remain ongoing in the context of the investigation to allow for a continuing assessment of actions being taken at the domestic level in accordance with the principle of complementarity.” In plain English, this means that the fact that an Israeli judge can independently investigate and prosecute the actions of the army, saves us from the arms of the ICC.

The arrest warrant issued against Putin should be a warning sign for Netanyahu. He should understand that if he decides to continue with the judicial overhaul, it will be his own actions which will move forward the case at the ICC and not “pure antisemitism”, as he claimed in 2021. Egoism, empowering the radical right wing parties and acting as if there was not an outside world around Israel, will only get Netanyahu what the relentless pursuit of his goals can bring: the luck of the Russian.

About the Author
Jonathan moved to Israel in 2018 (and so became Yoni). He is passionate about Justice, Democracy, and Human Rights, which has been a driving force behind his career path. Jonathan is an international criminal lawyer and Managing Partner at MHM Law Offices. He holds a J.D. from Buenos Aires University (2017) and an M.A in Diplomacy Studies from Tel Aviv University (2021).
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