Opinion |: Why is Putin’s war crimes trial more likely than you might think?

It seems like it’s all but inevitable Russian President Vladimir Putin will be charged International Court of Justice’s, probably, other courts as well.

But if I had said that a few months ago, I would have been categorically fired as an untouchable academic, and that’s right.

Decisions have seen a decisive shift toward accountability, even for leaders who have long seemed untouchable.

Of course, in recent decades there has been a decisive shift towards responsibility, even for that leaders who seemed untouchable for a long time. But in practice, international tribunals have prosecuted the leaders of war-torn states (see Nuremberg, Tokyo) or “small power” states, such as: Liberia: և: Ivory Coast.

Now, however, an unusually large group of states is active supports the investigation In the wake of the atrocities in Ukraine, which many expect the ICJ to eventually file charges against Putin. The intensity of these investigations is greater than anything I have seen in my work in international justice for nearly three decades.

The landscape of world justice is changing at a distorted rate. And the rapprochement of several key factors in Ukraine spurred this shift.

The first is the impudent nature of Russia’s invasion. Russia’s attack on a country whose only insult was its democracy and its desire to join the North Atlantic Alliance is considered:so annoying“It simply came to our notice then. It is true that this is not the first time in recent memories that a sovereign state has been invaded (see Iraq 2003). But because he grossly violates international law, Putin has taken global efforts to enforce it to new heights.

Second, the Russian forces have committed a number of atrocities, which are allegedly against thousands of innocent people. civiliansincluding, according to information hundreds of children. In response, Western leaders According to French President Emanuel Macron “The Russian authorities must be held accountable for these crimes.”

Third, and most importantly, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has demanded that those responsible for serious war crimes be held accountable.to be subjected to liability»Եւ has facilitated real-time investigation in Russian atrocities.

His eyes carry a phenomenal weight. At a time when inspirational leaders are sadly declining, Zelensky’s leadership has become a cause. wide and deep admiration – Undoubtedly, it is reinforced by the fresh memories of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani when he left his country before it fell into the hands of the Taliban. Little miracle world leaders They went to the war zone one by one to show solidarity. և to be photographed – With the President of Ukraine.

Fourth, media expert Zelensky greeted foreign correspondents who received reports of atrocities just as they occur. How is it different, for example, from the situation in Myanmar? Although its citizens have suffered during the brutal junta Its devastation since February 2021 has received little attention now, in part because banned by the junta independent media.

Efforts to bring Putin to justice may be inseparable from the strong political commitment of President Joe Biden and other leaders. provided with meaningful actions և Tireless diplomacy to counter Russian aggression.

And yes, Western leaders can be more willing to act in the face of the suffering of their fellow citizens. On the flip side, however, what makes recent developments so astonishing is that Western leaders may also be more tolerant of ICJ allegations against leaders. do not do to be like themto rule powerful countries or enjoy the protection of great powers, or so many critics think.

Take note the record of modern tribunals. Although it is the ICC is currently under investigation Violence in the Philippines, Venezuela, and a number of other countries outside of Africa, so far he has blamed only African leaders or former leaders. African leaders have also been prosecuted in a UN tribunal set up in response to the Rwandan genocide (former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda) pleaded guilty Genocide in 1998) – another international tribunal that dealt with atrocities in Sierra Leone (formerly Liberia) President Charles Taylor has been sentenced to sponsor atrocities (2012).

The UN tribunal in Europe set up to deal with the atrocities that followed the collapse of Yugoslavia eventually targeted the leaders. In 1999 it Serbian leader Slobodan Miloևi ժամանակ was charged during the war. Although he died before his trial, Miloևiև spent his last years in the port. It was a possible event, but Milosevic was not Putin.

Buildings destroyed by artillery in Chernigov
On April 21, in the Ukrainian city of Chernigov, a man was passing by buildings destroyed by artillery.Emilio Morenatti / AP file:

All these persecutions were completely justified. And they were welcome leave earlier timeswhen former dictators could expect calm retirement, a proverb in the south of France. Nevertheless, the ICC’s accusation against Putin would have deviated from what had long seemed to be the unwritten rule of universal justice.

To be clear, what critics have condemned as the removal of the “great power” from the ICC’s mandate is partly explained by the basic rules of international law. As long as the UN Security Council does not require an investigation by the ICC (this is where veto-wielding countries like Russia can assert their interests), its prosecutor can only accept atrocities if they were performed by citizens of the countries they accepted. its competence. Because the access of a court is determined by its founding treaty, which countries are free to accept or not. The United States, Russia, and China, the countries at the top of today’s shortlist of “great powers,” have no plans to do so.

All these persecutions were completely justified. And they have been welcomed since time immemorial.

Why, then, is it reasonable now to assume that the ICC Prosecutor will eventually accuse Putin? If the disgust with Putin’s behavior, which coincides with the admiration for Zelensky, explains the current political momentum of responsibility, then the court’s legal license comes from two sources.

First, Ukraine in 2015 submitted an announcement accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC. This allowed the prosecutor to investigate the atrocities in Ukraine since February 20, 2014, when Russia first crossed the Crimean peninsula to support separatists in the Donbas region. But it hardly prompted timely action. It took more than five years for the then prosecutor of the court concludes that a full investigation is guaranteed.

In contrast, just days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, incumbent prosecutor Karim Khan said he wanted to launch an investigation. This prompted the second key action, unprecedented 41 countries Ukraine quickly “sent” to court, which released Khan from obtaining the permission of judges.

Meanwhile, politicians and legal experts are now offering: stand new international or: regional tribunal that: can prosecute the crime of aggression – which is the ICC can not investigate without Russia’s consent. Barely three weeks after Russian tanks invaded Ukraine, legal experts developed a model indictment “For the crime of launching an aggressive war against Ukraine against President Vladimir Putin.”

Another significant realignment is possible. The United States, which strongly opposes the ICC jurisdiction over citizens of countries that have not joined the tribunal without the mediation of the UN Security Council, is active. to debate whether to weaken his position.

The Biden administration has come a long way in this, assuming that the involvement of the ICC in Ukraine may be: “Relevant”. It is noteworthy that the Senate unanimously approved the resolution introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham, which supports the investigation of the ICC in Ukraine. Never in a moment that I would see happen, Graham told The New York Times that Putin alone “restored.”[d] The ICC is in the eyes of the Republican Party and the American people. “

Of course, in the end, it is one thing to accuse the head of state, it is quite another to bring him to justice in a global court. The ICC protocol sounds like a warning note. Whether former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who was charged in 2009, is out of power and detained in Sudan, he has: has yet to be transferred The Hague ICJ. Muammar Gaddafi, whom the court indicted in June 2011, was present killed In Libya, he could receive custody before trial. A few years later, the then prosecutor was Fatou Bensouda is forced to drop the charge Against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, he said that the witness intimidation had condemned his case.

It is one thing to accuse a head of state, it is quite another to bring him to an international court.

However, it would be wrong to rule out a successful crackdown on Putin. At first glance, key governments appear to be unusually willing to present evidence that could include intelligence wiretaps on Putin’s criminal record.

International justice has also repeatedly challenged skeptics. True, it has happened often It’s too long. But this should not be confused with denied justice.

Last year, the ICC finally convicted Dominique Ongwen, the senior Ugandan commander of the notoriously brutal Lord Resistance Army, who was first indicted in 2005, but avoided capture a decade. His case is hardly unique.

The Cambodians had to wait much longer for justice for the deadly kingdom of Pol Pot. However, more than 30 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, The three surviving figures were convicted of international crimes In front of the extraordinary chambers of the Cambodian courts. “

This does not mean that it is only a matter of time before Putin is held accountable. Among the enormous challenges ahead is the relentless tendency of diplomats and their leaders to move on to the next crisis. As much as there is a global determination to hold Putin accountable now, we can not assume that it will continue.

However, Putin has broken the tolerable limits of tolerance so much that it is unimaginable to assume. a fundamental change is taking place. Besides, as the champions of justice remind, it is his indictment would give no small account. Indeed, it would change the game.

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