Crimes of Aggression, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes in Ukraine

Crimes of Aggression, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes in Ukraine

On April 1, 2022, Professor Susana SáCouto, Director of AUWCL’s War Crimes Research Office, led a panel discussion about the crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Ukraine. Panelists included AUWCL Associate Professor Rebecca Hamilton, AUWCL Professor Diane Orentlicher, the Director of Research and Investigations, Physicians for Human Rights, Christian De Vos, and the former Ambassador and Special Coordinator for Global Criminal Justice at the U.S. Department of State, Todd Buchwald. They particularly focused on the possibilities for investigation, documentation, and potential prosecution of crimes committed during the conflict in Ukraine.

Professor Rebecca Hamilton identified various jurisdictions where the crime of aggression against Russia or other leaders could be prosecuted. She explained that Russia is not a party to the Rome statute. While Ukraine is also not a party, it accepted the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting crimes committed during the ongoing military conflict. In her opinion, the most appropriate approach would be that the ICC exercised jurisdiction and prosecuted the crime of aggression, rather than setting up a separate, ad hoc tribunal. Professor Diane Orentlicher then dived into other key challenges with respect to the investigation and prosecution and how likely an actual prosecution of prime suspects and other officials of Russia may be.

Todd Buchwald shifted the focus to the on-going debates whether the United States—also a non-party to the Rome Statute—will co-operate with the ICC investigations and eventual prosecution of criminally responsible perpetrators. Christian De Vos focused on the challenges faced by civil society organizations who are currently documenting extreme violations of human rights and preserving evidence for criminal proceedings. He emphasized greatly on the importance of collaboration and co-ordination between international NGO’s while mentioning the Myanmar case, in order to avoid re-traumatization risks faced by victims and witnesses during interviews.

In addition, the panel discussed the need for civilians’ training and education and raised concerns for their security amidst the atrocities as they generated crime-based evidence. Todd Buchwald attached great value to user generated evidence of such atrocities because it serves as the useful purpose of delegitimizing these crimes and garners support for the people of Ukraine, even if that didn’t eventually flower into an actual prosecution.

Watch the entire even here.