The draft resolution is circulated in United nations In New York for a Nuremberg-style trial to hold the Russian leadership accountable for crimes of aggression in Ukraine amid signs that US opposition to the proposal may be waning in the face of pressure from Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
It’s something President Zelensky cares about very much,” Beth Van Schaack, the US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice, said this week. Ukraine He wants, and I think this will have a lot of weight. The question is, will they have votes in the General Assembly? “
She added, “So far, both [general assembly] Resolutions on Ukraine prevailed. The numbers were very strong.”
The ICC has already begun investigating war crimes in Ukraine, but the Ukrainian leadership argues that the ICC is broken in that while it can try individual war crimes suspects, it cannot prosecute the Kremlin leadership for the broader crime of aggression since then. Russia Not a signatory to the relevant law.
Van Schaack, who was speaking in London at the Lawyers for Justice in Libya event, said the United States has not taken a firm stand on a special tribunal. But she believes there is an advantage to holding trials in absentia for Russians accused of war crimes if they cannot be extradited.
She said it was possible for the United States to declassify intelligence information to help reveal those most responsible for preparing to wage a war that it said clearly violated the Charter of the United Nations.
Her notes suggest that key figures in the Biden administration are now more open to creating a special tribunal focused on the Russian leadership’s role in directing the invasion of Ukraine. “We’re looking at all angles, and we certainly support taking some interim steps, particularly when it comes to preserving evidence,” she said.
Van Schaack said two options are being considered. The first is a bilateral treaty between Ukraine and the United Nations, which “in some ways had the blessing of the General Assembly, brought political support from the entire international community and created a self-contained court.”
She said the second option is a local court set up by Ukraine with the European Union or a council Europe Add an international component, possibly passed by vote in the UN General Assembly.
Either way, the vision will be the trial of the crime of aggression. “It will be a limited number of defendants, perhaps the senior political leadership and perhaps some senior military actors as well,” she said.
In a breach of Ukrainian diplomatic pressure, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, last week backed a specialized tribunal for the first time. The court already had a strong French, Baltic and Dutch the supportBut the position of the United States and the United Kingdom was less clear.
Opponents of the plan fear that the move will be diplomatically divisive, reduce the status of the International Criminal Court, or interrupt its work and act as a deterrent to the current Russian leadership to reach a peace agreement. There are also concerns that heads of state and foreign ministers can, under international law, claim functional immunity from prosecution in domestic courts.
Last Wednesday, the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, presented the case to a special court for British parliamentarians, and urged Britain to recognize that the court would be complementary to the work of the International Criminal Court. On the same day, however, the British Attorney General, Victoria Prentice, who outlined the British role in assisting Ukrainian prosecutors, did not refer to the crime of aggression. A meeting of G7 justice ministers was silent on the issue.
The Special Court was proposed for the first time by the British Kavkaz Center Philip SandsHe has the support of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Sands argues that “only the leaders are truly responsible, and the crime of aggression is the only way to get to the top table. The crime of crimes is the crime of aggression.” He said he had sensed that major powers had been moving on this issue in recent weeks.
On November 14, the General Assembly voted 94 to 14, with 73 abstentions, to support the principle of Russia paying reparations and approved the establishment of a claims registry in The Hague, staffed by UN prosecutors, to compile state and individual compensation claims.
Van Schaack said there was a possibility “in absentia” to hear Russian war crimes cases, saying the Ukrainian court system allowed for this.
“There is nothing inherently wrong with in absentia proceedings as long as they meet due process standards. Do they satisfy survivors? Do they satisfy justice observers? Probably not. But they provide a forum for victims to testify.
“They provide an opportunity to bring the evidence together to create a historical record, and then if those individuals fall into custody, they have the right to a retrial, which can then start a really hostile process. So I see the benefit of bringing cases even though you’re not sure you’re going to get Guardianship over the accused.
Ukraine wants the new court to begin its work no later than September 2023, and since then it believes it has collected at least 26,000 war crimes that resulted in the deaths of 7,500 civilians, including 400 children.