A group of 26 Russian lawyers and human rights activists made a significant declaration at the "Brussels Dialogue" opposition forum, advocating for the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate Russia's actions against Ukraine. The declaration, published in Meduza and "Novaya Gazeta Evropa," marks the first public support from the Russian democratic community to hold the country's leaders accountable for war crimes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's proposal to create an international tribunal to investigate Russia's war crimes has gained support from the European Commission and the United States. The recent endorsement from Russian lawyers is a crucial step forward in the pursuit of justice. The declaration, available in Russian, Ukrainian, and English, emphasizes the need to deliver justice to the victims and stresses the importance of holding perpetrators accountable through international mechanisms.
Titled "Brussels Declaration," the document strongly condemns the war initiated by Russian against Ukraine, highlighting its impact on international peace, human rights, and international law. It notes that Russia's actions persist despite decisions by the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice. Citing the findings of the International Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, the declaration asserts that Russia has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict.
The Russian lawyers and human rights activists view it as their moral obligation to seek justice for the victims. They express support for the ongoing investigation conducted by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court into the situation in Ukraine. The declaration also condemns the threats made by Russian authorities against the prosecutor and judges of the International Criminal Court, reaffirming their commitment to upholding principles of international justice.
Recognizing the role of the crime of aggression in facilitating other international crimes, the declaration emphasizes the need to prosecute political and military leaders involved in planning, preparing, and executing the war, along with their accomplices. This is vital to ensure justice for the numerous victims. The lawyers underscore that planning, initiating, and conducting a war of aggression is a crime under general international law, as well as under the laws of Ukraine and Russia.
Acknowledging the limited jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the Ukraine situation, the declaration supports the initiative to establish a special international tribunal for the crime of aggression. This tribunal, involving other countries and international organizations alongside Ukraine, would operate independently and have jurisdiction over the accused, regardless of their official status or immunity under international and national law.
The declaration highlights that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been widely recognized by the majority of UN member states as an act of aggression, providing a solid basis for the establishment of an international tribunal. The lawyers emphasize the importance of breaking the cycle of impunity enjoyed by the Russian leadership and military for past crimes to prevent future atrocities. Their commitment lies in bringing the perpetrators to justice and supporting the victims in their journey towards recovery.
In mid-March 2023, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on suspicion of illegally deporting children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia. However, due to Russia's non-ratification of the Rome Statute governing the ICC, the country does not recognize the court's jurisdiction.