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War
‘Russian Officials Accused of Ukraine War Crimes Could Find Themselves in The Hague One Day’
22 November, 2016

What You Need To Know:

✅ A recent International Criminal Court report said prosecutors had formed a preliminary view that Russia occupies the Crimean peninsula and that there may well be an international armed conflict in eastern Ukraine involving Russia. This is a big step towards a final decision by The Hague on whether to pursue both cases.

✅ The ICC’s draft decision effectively recognizes that the Russian presence and authority in Crimea are merely temporary and when hostilities end, stipules that the peninsula should be returned to Ukrainian government control.

✅ The views of the ICC prosecutor referred to the United Nation’s General Assembly when compiling the report. In March 2014, the UNSC adopted a resolution calling upon states not to recognize the changes of power in Crimea by a majority of 100-11 (with 58 absentees).

✅ “The perennial problem of international law - the more powerful you are, the more you can ignore it without consequence. If Russian officials are accused of war crimes in Crimea, Russia is unlikely to surrender those people to the ICC and the ICC doesn’t have its own police force or its own force to arrest. But that’s not a reason to not have some hope that, in the future, these decisions can be enforced”

✅ Russia withdrew from the ICC after the report was published on November 14, claiming it had ‘failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal.’

On November 14, the International Criminal Court in The Hague published preliminary findings suggesting that Russia is a warring party in the war in Donbas and that the Russian Federation is an occupying power in the Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Several days later, the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights panel condemning the troublesome human rights situation in the same occupied Black Sea region.

Hromadske International spoke about these rulings and the ongoing investigations related to Ukraine’s EuroMaidan protests with Wayne Jordash QC, a British human rights lawyer and a partner in Global Rights Compliance. He argues that the ICC’s preliminary decision paves the way for a proper investigation into crimes related to Russia’s takeover of Crimea and direct involvement in the war in Ukraine’s industrial eastern regions. Yet the lawyer argues bringing proper justice for victims could take years.

“If Russian officials are accused of war crimes in Crimea, Russia is unlikely to surrender those people to the ICC and the ICC doesn’t have its own police force or its own force to arrest.... But that’s not a reason to not have some hope that, in the future, these decisions can be enforced”,  Mr. Jordash QC says

“We never know what will happen in Russia in the next five, ten or 15 years and what the political situation will allow and whether there is someone indicted from Russia will eventually find themselves in front of the ICC”

Both the Ukrainian government and civil society activists should be encouraged by the decision, Mr. Jordash QC argues. Yet while claims against Russia continue, Ukraine’s prosecutor's office must also deal with more high-profile cases related to another event - the Euromaidan uprising and 2014 revolution.

‘It’s not easy, I mean, these are complicated offenses. Many of the critical witnesses seem to have fled the country which makes the situation very difficult. And I think that any prosecutor, whether domestic or international, would struggle with the weight of these crimes’. Mr. Jordash QC says

‘So I think there is progress,’ the lawyer adds. ‘They are making progress, in terms of bringing the police officers who might be responsible, to trial. But it is a slow process’.

Hromadske correspondent Yaroslav Druziuk spoke with Wayne Jordash QC, an international human rights and criminal law expert at Global Rights Compliance on November 17, 2016, in Kyiv, Ukraine.