US backs special tribunal on Russian ‘aggression’ against Ukraine

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – The United States on Tuesday threw its support behind a special international tribunal to try Russia for an “aggression” against Ukraine, building momentum to prosecute the crime for the first time since the Second World War.

The European Union has backed a special tribunal, which could bring fresh charges against President Vladimir Putin and would be the latest legal salvo after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him for crimes alleged war.

The US State Department said the US would work with allies to establish a “special tribunal on the crime of aggression” following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of its neighbour.

“We see that such a court will have significant international support – particularly from our partners in Europe – and ideally located in another European country,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

Beth Van Schaack, the US ambassador general for global criminal justice, said the US wanted the court to have international personnel and resources.

That will provide “the clearest path to establishing a new tribunal and maximize our chances of achieving meaningful accountability,” she said in a speech Monday at the Catholic University of America.

She said the United States was “committed” to working with other countries to provide resources for such a tribunal “in a way that achieves comprehensive accountability for the international crimes being committed in Ukraine.”

This was the first time that the United States — which has a close relationship with the International Criminal Court — expressly supported a special tribunal on Ukraine.

The European Union tabled the idea in November, which was formally supported in January by a vote of the European Parliament.

A building heavily damaged after Russia’s attack on Slovenia, Donetsk region, Ukraine, March 27, 2023. (Libkos/AP)

The legacy of the Second World War

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, speaking almost Tuesday at a US-led democracy summit, said his country “strongly” supports the special tribunal, saying Putin’s invasion brought memories of Czechoslovakia’s forced land concessions. to Germany in 1938.

The crime of aggression, then known as a crime against peace, was prosecuted after the Second World War and formed the basis of the Nuremburg and Tokyo trials of officials from Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.

The International Criminal Court has had jurisdiction since 2018 over the crime of aggression, but legal experts say it cannot prosecute Russia because the country, like the United States, is not bound by the Rome statute that established the tribunal in The Hague.

Nations that are not part of the court may still be referred by a vote of the UN Security Council — where Russia would be sure to exercise its veto power.

The idea of ​​a special tribunal was first put forward shortly after the invasion of Ukraine by former British prime minister Gordon Brown, along with legal scholars.

Brown, in a March 2022 petition, said it might be “easier to establish responsibility” for the crime of aggression than for individual war crimes because “there was such a clear gross violation of the United Nations Charter.”

Ambassador General for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack, center, and Erin Barclay, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor attend a briefing on the 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices at the State Department of the US in Washington, March 20, 2023. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant stems from allegations that children from Ukraine were illegally deported to Russia.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has decided whether the United States would theoretically arrest Putin. Under congressional law, the United States is restricted from cooperating closely with the court, seeking to avoid a precedent for prosecuting Americans.

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