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International Law Experts, Ukrainians Talk Tribunal

Participants in the Robert H. Jackson Center’s discussion on a possible tribunal in Ukraine included, clockwise from top left, David Crane, former Chief Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone; Ambassador Hans Correll, former Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs and legal counsel of the United Nations; Ambassador Anton, Korynevych, permanent representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as Inna Liniova, executive director of the Ukrainian bar association.

“These are attacks on all United Nations, not just Ukraine, and the whole concept of international peace and community.”

That was the heart of a message during a Thursday afternoon panel discussion held by the Robert H. Jackson Center entitled, “The Path and Obstacles to a Special Tribunal for Ukraine.

The talk brought international law experts and Ukrainian officials together to explore what a tribunal might look like and the importance of prompt movement in that direction.

“It is absolutely necessary for the international community not to lose sight (of) what is happening in Ukraine,” Ambassador Hans Correll, former Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs and legal counsel of the United Nations, explained.

Correll stressed that the Russian assault against Ukraine is a “flagrant violation” of the UN Charter.

“What is happening in Ukraine is extremely serious,” he said, calling on the international community to act with “determination” to uphold the rule of law.

Ukrainian legal officials participated in the session, including Ambassador Anton, Korynevych, permanent representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as Inna Liniova, executive director of the Ukrainian bar association.

Korynevych said he was participating from Kyiv and that he had to respond to an air raid today.

“Ukraine is really focused… to get the victory in this really, purely aggressive war,” he said, explaining that Russian aggression dates to 2014, not February 2022.

He explained that the Ukrainians don’t have the ability to prosecute the crime of aggression and can’t prosecute top Russian officials “due to their functional and personal immunities.”

He said a tribunal specifically to prosecute aggression is an “important step” and “obvious. The question is, of course, how to do that?”

“Our mission as we view it,” Liniova said, is to combat warfare with “lawfare.

“The world does not shy away from the terms war” and genocide, crimes against humanity. “Unfortunately, we understand that now the greatest weapon that Russia and President Putin has is time. The stronger actions are very much needed and are needed urgently.”

David Crane, former Chief Prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone and former Jackson Center Board President, discussed the differences and similarities between his work in Africa and options in Ukraine.

His answer was clear: “We’ve done this before.”

Crane explained that the International Criminal Court is “taking important steps” regarding war crimes, crimes against humanity and “perhaps” genocide.

He outlined a proposal “similar to west Africa” where a “limited court” would be established to “account for an international criminal act,” specifically the crime of aggression.

“I really want to stress here… this is an historic moment,” he said. “(It is) very, very critical democracies come together and face down aggression, simple as that. The world’s community is watching. We have strongmen sitting like crocodiles watching to see what we do about the crime of aggression in Putin. If we do nothing, then we now have precedent.”

His recommendation would see Ukraine ask the UN General Assembly to “enter into a bilateral treaty” for the special tribunal. “It can be focused, specific, efficient” and operating in weeks.

“We need to do this now.”

Liniova said that holding Putin and his closest leaders accountable “is a cornerstone of durable peace” both in Ukraine and in the world.

Crane called Putin a “pariah.”

“The Russian Federation as a viable member state of the UN and Security Council (is) badly damaged if not completely over. They are no longer worthy of the respect of the world.”

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