The International Criminal Court's newly elected president has expressed strong conviction that Russian President Vladimir Putin, against whom the Hague-based body issued an arrest warrant last year, will be brought to justice for his war crimes in Ukraine.

Speaking in a recent exclusive interview with Kyodo News, Tomoko Akane quoted a Chinese proverb -- "Heaven's vengeance is slow but sure" -- to indicate that Putin will eventually get what he deserves.

The 67-year-old, who became the first Japanese to head the ICC on March 11, was involved in the court's decision to grant an arrest warrant for Putin in March last year over his alleged involvement in the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children.

File photo taken December 2023 shows Tomoko Akane, who became the first Japanese to head the International Criminal Court on March 11, 2024, speaking to reporters at the U.N. headquarters in New York. (Kyodo)

While it is unlikely Russia will agree to Putin's handover as the country is not a party to the court, the Russian president could be arrested if he travels to ICC member states including Japan.

Despite Russia's backlash and being put on its wanted list, Akane has refused to back down, saying, "As long as there is evidence and a need, we must issue (the arrest warrant) no matter the circumstances or political background."

The ICC earlier this month also issued arrest warrants for two Russian high-ranking military officers, then commanders, for allegedly attacking Ukrainian electric infrastructure and other civilian objects, indicating that the scope of the investigation has expanded to cover other personnel. They are accused of committing war crimes.

But Akane, in noting that "there have been no cases resulting in arrests over the past two years," acknowledged the challenges faced by the ICC.

As fighting continues in Ukraine as well as between Israel and the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip, "there are many cases that require a response," she said.

A native of the central prefecture of Aichi, Akane began serving as a prosecutor in Japan in 1982 before taking up posts such as professor at a Japanese law school and head of a U.N. training center. She became an ICC judge in March 2018.

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