Photo: Nuremberg trial
Source: Deutsche Welle
During the 8 years of war, the Russian Federation brought a lot of sufferings to the Ukrainian people. After the February 24 invasion, the number of crimes committed by the Russians reached a colossal scale. From the first minutes of the invasion, the Russians violated international humanitarian law and the rules of warfare, starting with attacks on civilian objects, continuing with deliberate murders, "safari" on Ukrainian citizens, kidnappings, rapes, and the destruction of entire cities and villages. In the first months of the war, it became clear that the actions of the Russians were genocide, which the Russian military-political leadership dubbed as "denazification."
With each new crime committed, the Russians believed that they were getting closer to breaking the morale of the Ukrainians, but in fact strengthened their willingness to resist and the willingness of their partners to help Ukraine. As of the end of 2022, Ukraine's partners have united more than ever around its support. Official Kyiv is getting the latest air defense systems, the 9th package of sanctions is being prepared to be introduced against the Russian Federation, and more and more European institutions are recognizing Russia as a terrorist state. In addition, legal mechanisms for the confiscation of Russian property in favor of Ukraine and the organization of a tribunal that will punish Russians guilty of crimes in Ukraine are already being discussed. Progress in the creation of the tribunal is a revolutionary process, and the president of Ukraine emphasizes its necessity in almost every his speech.
Today, not only representatives of Ukraine advocate the need to punish the Russian leadership for crimes, but also some high-ranking officials of European countries. In particular, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic stated in an interview for Radio Liberty that he is convincing partners to join this initiative and more and more countries agree that the tribunal is needed. Among the countries that have already expressed their support for the creation of the tribunal, in addition to the Czech Republic, we can name France, the Netherlands, Canada and Great Britain, the Baltic states, as well as Germany represented by President Steinmeier. The creation of such a tribunal was also supported by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, plays a special role in promoting this idea. There is already a working group in Ukraine that will work on the issue of creating a special international tribunal to bring to justice those guilty of aggression against Ukraine.
Currently, the mechanism for prosecuting Russians for crimes against Ukraine is under development. Experts are trying to decide how it would be possible to punish the Russian leadership together with military personnel within the framework of international law. The option with the International Criminal Court (ICC) seems unlikely. The International Criminal Court in The Hague, which investigates Russia's crimes against Ukraine, can prosecute for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But establishing a legal link between specific crimes and instructions from the Kremlin is quite difficult, and therefore it will be difficult to prove the direct guilt of Putin and Russia's political leaders. In addition, currently the ICC can only consider the crime of aggression through a request of the UN Security Council, where Russia has the right of veto, or if both the aggressor and the victim state have ratified the Kampala Amendments to the Rome Statute, which neither Russia nor Ukraine have done.
One of the possible ways is to create a special tribunal through a vote of the UN General Assembly. Such a decision would require the political will of the majority of United Nations member states. During the war, the required number of votes each time was collected for votes related to Russian aggression. However, the issue of creating a special tribunal will require more determination from the international community. Among the states, there are different views on ways to resolve Russian aggression. In addition, states may be afraid of worsening relations with the Russian Federation. The greater the losses suffered by the Russian Federation, the greater the probability that non-Western countries will support the initiative to create a tribunal against Russia. There were precedents in history when court processes concerned the leadership of great powers: the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials. However, this happened already after the capitulation of these countries in the war. Another option is to create a tribunal based on an international treaty with the largest possible number of parties.
The question arises of who is responsible for crimes in Ukraine and ways of implementing the decisions of a potential tribunal. Doctor of Law, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Foreign Policy and Interparliamentary Cooperation, Oleksandr Merezhko, believes that Russian President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov, Defense Minister Shoigu, and Russian Prime Minister Mishustin should be subjects of the tribunal. "The subjects of the crime of aggression should also include the ministers of economy, finance, information, leaders of the ruling political party, the leadership of the Russian Duma, economic leaders of the country, thanks to whom the Russian military machine functioned, propagandists, and perhaps even those Russian religious leaders, who fanned anti-Ukrainian propaganda," the scientist writes. Importantly, Merezhko singles out not only individuals, but also Russian organizations, drawing parallels with the trial of Nazi Germany. Thus, it is proposed to include such criminal repressive bodies as the FSB, Russian political parties and such propagandist television companies as Russia Today as subjects of the tribunal.
Even if the tribunal finds high-ranking Russian officials guilty, the issue of enforcing the sentence will arise. A possible version of the development of events is a change of rulers in Russia, which would agree to extradite the former leaders of the Russian Federation. However, in a more realistic scenario, Vladimir Putin will remain in power and partner countries will have to develop mechanisms to isolate the Russian dictator. Thus, states that support the tribunal will need to convince other states to abandon cooperation with Putin's Russia and be ready to implement restrictive measures against countries that maintained such cooperation.
The creation of a special tribunal for the prosecution of the political and military leadership of Russia and the implementation of its future decision is a difficult task. However, this process has already been launched, despite all the skepticism at the initial stage. Ukrainian diplomacy is actively promoting this initiative, which is an integral part of Ukraine's peace plan. The implementation of the idea of creating a tribunal will have a significant impact on the further development of international relations in the 21st century. The war crimes committed by the Russians must not be repeated, so other potential aggressors should know that war crimes will necessarily lead to punishment and the trial over the Russian leadership should become not only an element of restoring justice, but also an important deterrent.
1. Andrii Smyrnov, We Need a Special Tribunal to Put Putin and His Regime on Trial, 23.09.2022, URL: https:// time.com/6216040/putin-war-crimes-tribunals/
2. Пітер Дікінсон, Покарати Путіна та Ко. Чи є шанс створити трибунал для Росіі?, 14.12.2022, URL: https:// nv.ua/ukr/opinion/zelenskiy-zaklikav-stvoriti-tribunal-dlya-putina-viyna-rosiji-ostanni-novini-50290686.html
3. Олександр Мережко, Міжнароднии? трибунал для Путіна і и?ого поплічників: як можна і?х покарати, 01.06.2022, URL: https://zn.ua/ukr/LAW/mizhnarodnij-tribunal-dlja-putina-i-joho-poplichnikiv-jak-mozhna- jikh-pokarati.html