Call for new special tribunal to punish war crimes in Ukraine

Russia will be held accountable for its deeds, says Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal  | 04.03.2022 - Update : 04.03.2022
Call for new special tribunal to punish war crimes in Ukraine


A group of academics, law practitioners and politicians on Friday called for a special tribunal to investigate war crimes committed in Russia’s war on Ukraine.

A declaration seeking the creation of a special criminal tribunal was launched in an online event held by British think tank Chatham House, which was also attended by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The proposal of creating a special tribunal was formulated by senior international legal experts and seeks to address a gap in the global legal infrastructure for punishing war crimes.

“Currently the International Criminal Court (ICC) can investigate crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes … But we lack a crucial extra weapon in the legal fight against (Vladimir) Putin because Russia has not signed up to a separate ICC statute under which nations pledge not to commit so-called ‘crimes of aggression’,” said Brown.

“We need the special tribunal,” he stressed.

Brown explained that the plan to set up a new international tribunal has been modelled on the actions of the nations which met in London during World War II to draft a resolution on Nazi war crimes, which eventually led to the creation of the International Military Tribunal and the Nuremberg trials.

Thanking the attendees, Kuleba conveyed Ukraine’s support for such a mechanism to probe war crimes committed by Russia.

Russia previously attacked Ukraine and occupied Crimea, and it has now another wave of aggression “in a rather barbarian way,” he said.

He said nine nations met in London 80 years ago to set up a legal framework to prosecute war criminals of World War II and “that led to the establishment of a precedent in international law that basically defined the future development of international criminal law.”

Welcoming the declaration calling for a special criminal tribunal, the Ukrainian foreign minister said: “We appreciate the initiative. We are looking forward to working actively on it and also to engage with those countries who are willing to take part in this important undertaking.”

Kuleba said the aim of the initiative is “not to replace international criminal court or any other jurisdictional bodies, but to fill the gap that exists in international law and to use the experience of international community and international law for the benefit of the people and of the world order based on international law.”

“When bombs fall on your cities, when soldiers rape women in the occupied cities and we have numerous cases, unfortunately, when Russian soldiers rape women in the Ukrainian cities, it’s difficult of course, to speak about the efficiency of the international law,” he said.

“But this is the only tool of civilization that is available to us to make sure that, in the end, eventually all those who made this war possible, will be brought to justice.”

He added that Russia “as a country that committed an act of aggression will also be held accountable for its deeds.”

“We are ready to work with anyone who is willing to bring Russia to account,” Kuleba said.

The meeting was chaired by Elizabeth Wilmshurst of Chatham House and the other participants were Dapo Akande, professor of public international law at the University of Oxford; Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London; Mykola Gnatovsky, adviser to the Ukrainian foreign minister.

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