We have heard that the International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into Putin and being a war criminal. Not only is it on full display for more than a week, but his war crimes go back to the conflict in Syria. At least 39 countries have sent referrals to the ICJ regarding Putin’s full scale invasion of Ukraine. The ICJ is expected to fast track the investigation. This could get messy as Russia is not a member of the International Criminal Court and for that matter neither is the United States.
Putin has justified his invasion of Ukraine claiming genocide of Russian citizens as well as ongoing military hostilities. Yeesh.
Many don’t realize that many within Putin’s inner circle have not only turned on him, and have provided intelligence to the West including Ukraine to be able to take offensive measures especially in the matters of the assassination squads sent to kill the members of the Ukraine government including President Zelensky. Additionally, there are others within Putin’s orbit that have resigned and fled Russia for fear of prosecution which really means execution.
One of Putin’s lawyers, Alain Pellet resigned last week and described the reason to be the widely known fact that the Kremlin despises law…including international law. You can read his letter here.
The truth is, the ICJ should not begin or end with Putin as a war criminal, it should included the oligarchs and other Duma operatives that have enabled this war and the illegal activities associated with it including Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin.
He has a long list of criminal charges against him including that troll factory that was located in St. Petersburg that interfered with the 2014 U.S. election process. He has ties to Indonesia and Qatar as well.
The UK is the first country to not only step up in cooperation with the ICJ but has a team that is working the critical task to preserve all evidence of war crimes including shelling location, types of missiles including cluster-bombs and the fact that Russia violated at least 2 cease fires after agreeing to humanitarian escape corridors in Ukraine.
(rather like a feeble Nuremberg trial)
So, what is the process of the International Criminal Court you ask? In part:
The court has 123 member states, but neither Russia nor Ukraine is a party. However, back in 2015 when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, Ukraine referred the conflict to the court for investigation. And there’s a provision in the Rome Statute — article 12.3 — which allows states that are not members of the court to refer a conflict and allegations of crimes to the court. But an investigation has to be triggered, and one way for that to happen is if one of the 123 member states asks the court to investigate. And it was just announced Thursday night that 39 states referred the Ukraine situation to the International Criminal Court for investigation. So, the prosecutor of that court announced that he is immediately opening up an investigation and will start collecting evidence. That investigation is also open into past crimes that could have occurred in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Why is it important for the court to begin investigating now, rather than waiting for the conflict to end?
Investigations and prosecutions are important even before cases are brought before the court because they bring attention to the crimes that are being committed, and to the victims of these of these crimes. So, even aside from what happens in court down the road, the act of investigating and framing what is happening and naming it is extremely important.
What types of crimes can the International Criminal Court investigate?
The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over four types of crime: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and the crime of aggression. And there is no doubt that this is an act of aggression by Russia against Ukraine. However, the crime of aggression has a particular requirement, which is different from all the other crimes. It can only be prosecuted by the court if one member state commits an act of aggression against another. Since neither Russia nor Ukraine is a member, the crime of aggression here does not apply. So, the International Criminal Court is focusing on war crimes, and it will also consider crimes against humanity if they arise.
There is also an International Court of Justice. What role does it play?
The International Criminal Court investigates and prosecutes international crimes committed by individuals. The International Court of Justice resolves disputes between states. Ukraine has brought an emergency case before that court, which will be heard next week. The focus of Ukraine’s complaint is that Russia has used as one of its justifications — I’ll say, phony justification — for invading Ukraine the allegation that there is a threat of genocide against Russian nationals living in Ukraine. Ukraine says this is nonsense. The ICJ should rule that there is no such threat and that assertion cannot be used as a justification for the invasion.
Any real hope for justice on this? Not really.