EU and Ukrainian diplomats meet in Prague to discuss war tribunal for Russian aggression

The tribunal would complement the work of the International Criminal Court, which lacks jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 27.01.2023 10:43:00 (updated on 27.01.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Legal experts from the EU and other countries including Ukraine met in Prague Thursday to discuss the possibility of establishing a special tribunal for prosecuting crimes of aggression against Ukraine. The Czech Foreign Ministry hosted the meeting.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský said on Twitter that Czechia fully supports establishing a tribunal. "Russia must be held accountable for its war of aggression and justice must prevail," Lipavský tweeted.

In a statement on the Foreign Ministry website, Lipavský said the large turnout for the meeting confirms that impunity for the crime of aggression must not be tolerated.

“This is one of the initial meetings, which should, by the end, find a way to punish the current political leadership of Russia for aggression against Ukraine," Lipavský said.

Broad support for creating a tribunal

The meeting took place on the grounds of Černín Palace in Prague’s Castle district. Representatives from EU member states, other G7 countries, and representatives of EU institutions attended.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba thanked Lipavský for hosting the event. “[We are] focusing on ways toward delivering justice,” he tweeted.

Previously, Lipavský said a special criminal tribunal is needed to enable the trial of the Russian top political leadership over the aggression against Ukraine.

A clear signal must be sent that if someone commits an act of aggression, and they must be held liable for it, Lipavský said. In this case, the top political leadership in Moscow and some key generals are involved.

Complicated legal situation

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has limits on what cases it can hear, and this is why a special tribunal is needed. “Czechia fully supports the investigation of the situation by the ICC, which is primarily in relation to war crimes. However, the ICC cannot exercise jurisdiction in relation to the crime of aggression in the given case," Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Smolek said.

From a legal standpoint, though, the effective operation of such a tribunal is not easy. Smolek previously pointed to two basic legal problems. The first is the question of immunity for the top Russian politicians, who, while in office, are exempt from international criminal liability. The other question is whether the court could conduct the proceedings against the prosecuted persons in absentia. If not, the tribunal would to a large extent exist only on paper.

Kyiv seeks to establish a new international tribunal and potentially combine it with an existing domestic tribunal that would prosecute the high-raking masterminds of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv believes that it should be established to complement the operation of the ICC.

European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen last November said the EC wants to push through the establishment of a special tribunal, but the UN General Assembly's support would be crucial. The UN Security Council said it would not support the plan because Russia has the right to veto.

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