By Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS – Any new tribunal to judge Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must have enough international backing to credibly prosecute the highest political and military leaders in Moscow, the European Union’s top justice official said.
The 27-nation EU is considering setting up an international tribunal to rule on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine nearly a year ago, on Feb.24, 2022.
“As regards accountability for the crime of aggression in particular, currently, Russian leaders cannot be held accountable… before any international jurisdiction,” said European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has the powers to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide but Reynders said it could not mete out justice on Russian decision makers and the top military brass for attacking Ukraine.
German foreign minister this week called for the establishment of such a dedicated international tribunal and Reynders said it needed the broadest backing to be effective.
“The fact that the crime of aggression can, by definition, only be committed by the highest political and military leadership brings us to the issue of personal and functional immunities,” he told the European Parliament on Tuesday evening.
“A possible tribunal set up to prosecute the crime of aggression would need… to have a sufficiently international character to relinquish immunities in a legitimate way, and to act on behalf of the international community.”
Reynders said Ukraine’s prosecutor general has so far registered more than 60,000 reports related to crimes committed during the war.
Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, including energy facilities, have been described as possible war crimes by the United Nations and the ICC has also opened an investigation into that.
Moscow, which says it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine, has denied targeting civilians or committing other war crimes.
While the complex legal and political negotiations go on, Reynders suggested to first set up an international prosecution body that would investigate and store evidence for the future.
The Netherlands has said it was willing to host any new, U.N.-backed tribunal to try Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while London hosts in March an international conference to support the ICC in its investigations of alleged war crimes in Ukraine.