The European Parliament has adopted a resolution to establish a special tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine. The top Russian leadership is responsible for such crimes, the document says.
The special international tribunal to prosecute Russia’s crime of war aggression against Ukraine
The European Union and its members should seek the establishment of a special international tribunal to prosecute the crime of war aggression against Ukraine committed by Russia’s political and military leadership, according to a resolution of the European Parliament adopted on January 19. “There were 472 votes in favor, 19 against, and 33 abstentions.
The special tribunal – similar to the Nuremberg trials after World War II, where Nazi leaders were tried – should be created in close cooperation with Ukraine and the international community, preferably through the UN, the European Parliament decided. The UN Security Council established similar tribunals to prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Remove immunity from Putin and Lukashenko
The main task is to find a familiar, legally justified way to do this. The primary condition is that the court must have jurisdiction to prosecute Vladimir Putin, the political and military leadership of the Russian Federation, as well as Alexander Lukashenko and the leadership of Belarus as the state from whose territory and with whose support Russia is waging war against Ukraine.
The fact is that Russia’s top leadership is responsible for the crimes of war aggression. Still, they are subject to international immunity from foreign criminal jurisdiction. This means that such a tribunal should be stripped of its immunity. This requires the international community’s strong support, as the UN Security Council is blocked on any issue related to the war in Ukraine, as Russia is a permanent member and has the right to veto.
Therefore, the EU and Ukraine should seek support in the UN General Assembly and other international forums, actively using public diplomacy and strategic communication, the European Parliament said in its resolution.
Russian assets to be used for reparations to Ukraine
Moreover, the resolution called on the European Union and its partners to discuss legal ways to use the frozen assets of the Russian Central Bank as reparations for Russia’s violation of international law in Ukraine. In particular, to consider the potential denial of sovereign immunity protection for these assets due to the gravity of the offenses. Confiscating Russian public assets without lifting the immunity is out of the question.
The tribunal’s creation will signal to both Russian society and the international community that Putin and the Russian leadership may be brought to justice for the crime of aggression in Ukraine, the European Parliament stated. This should demonstrate to Russia’s political and business elite and the Kremlin’s allies that the country under Putin’s leadership will no longer be able to return to business as usual with the West, MEPs emphasized.
“Paradoxically, Russia itself needs such a tribunal,” said Latvian MEP Roberts Zile during the debate. – “It is important to stop the imperialist narrative in its society and for future generations of this country to put an end to Russian imperialist militarism.”
MEPs are confident that the tribunal plays a vital role for Ukraine in achieving justice and for the whole world in deterring other states from repeating aggression.
The first stage is the international special prosecutor’s office
The most important practical step in establishing a special tribunal should be an international special prosecutor’s office to investigate the crime of aggression against Ukraine, the European Parliament’s resolution emphasizes. European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders also spoke about this.
Mr. Reynders emphasized that before the tribunal can start working, a mechanism for investigating the crime of aggression is needed. The Special International Prosecutor’s Office will be the first step in the fight against impunity for this crime committed in Ukraine. According to him, the European Union is already discussing the creation of the prosecutor’s office with officials from Kyiv, Eurojust, and the International Criminal Court.
The ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide committed on the territory of Ukraine since November 2013. However, it does not have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression defined in the Rome Statute, as neither Ukraine nor Russia has ratified the Rome Statute and the amendments on the crime of aggression. In this regard, the European Parliament and the European Commission emphasized the importance of Ukraine’s ratification of the Rome Statute and amendments to the ICC and its official accession to the ICC.
In 2016, Russia refused to participate in the ICC after the annexation of Crimea was recognized as an occupation. A year and a half earlier, Ukraine had partially recognized its jurisdiction, which opened the door for the Office of the ICC Prosecutor in The Hague to launch an investigation after the full-scale Russian invasion.
Put an end to impunity for Russia’s war aggression against Ukraine
Establishing a special tribunal for the crime of aggression will not affect the jurisdiction of the ICC. Still, it will only complement it, the EU is convinced. Russian leaders cannot currently be held accountable for the crime of aggression before any jurisdiction. Therefore, “the creation of such a tribunal would fill a major gap in the structure of international criminal justice,” the European Parliament resolution says. For its part, the ICC prosecutor will focus on investigating crimes of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Ukraine.