U.S. Supports Special Tribunal for Russian “Crimes of Aggression” in Ukraine

March 28, 2023

The U.S. has thrown its support behind the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute crimes of aggression amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“At this critical moment in history, I am pleased to announce that the United States supports the development of an internationalized tribunal dedicated to prosecuting the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack said Monday.

Mentioning the prosecution of Nazi leaders in Nuremberg, she added that after World War II “the United States led the prosecution of the crime of aggression—deemed ‘crimes against the peace’ in the lexicon of the era.”

Ukraine and other countries have pushed for months to create such a tribunal. The U.S. until recently was on the fence, with officials instead saying they were reviewing the issue as well as supporting other mechanisms like the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In mid-March, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, pointing to his alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children.

But while organizations like the ICC can prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity, they do not have the jurisdiction to prosecute the crime of aggression by Russia against Ukraine.

We have a loophole, a gap in accountability, when we talk about accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” Ukrainian Ambassador-at-Large Anton Korynevych said in December.

He went on to call the crime of aggression a “leadership crime,” adding, “We believe that top perpetrators, top representatives of political and military leadership of the Russian Federation, their crime is a crime of aggression. Their crime is a crime of waging aggressive war, because this crime gave birth to all the other crimes.”

Van Schaack said Monday that a number of models for the tribunal had been under consideration, adding, “We envision such a court having significant international elements—in the form of substantive law, personnel, information sources, and structure.”

She further said the tribunal might initially be located in Europe outside Ukraine, which would lend “gravitas” to the undertaking and enable international involvement. 

“We are committed to working with Ukraine, and peace-loving countries around the world, to stand up, staff, and resource such a tribunal in a way that will achieve comprehensive accountability for the international crimes being committed in Ukraine,” she said. 

PHOTO: Children’s and Maternity Hospital in Mariupol (March 9, 2022) 

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