In an interview with Antenna 1, Philippe Sands, international law specialist, lawyer and professor at University College London, one of Britain’s most prestigious universities, argued that the most effective way to bring Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin to justice is through a criminally based process. aggression and the establishment of special courts to punish crimes of aggression against Ukraine.
“The only way to ensure that we have reached the highest number of the Russian state is through the crime of aggression, over which the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction. We need to create a new tribunal to deal with this type of crime.” And that’s what a group of international experts and I are trying to do. And that’s what the Ukrainian president talked about before the United Nations. He supports this initiative”, said Philippe Sands.
In recent weeks, international law specialists have been working within the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to advance the creation of a “special mechanism”, not least because, in Philippe Sands’ opinion, it is important to find a structure that obliges key Moscow officials to respond in court: “Wrong.” one of my biggest concerns is that, in three or four years, we will have criminal proceedings in the International Criminal Court for war crimes and against humanity with defendants who are only mid-level military personnel who have committed atrocities in Bucha, Irpin or Mariupol, but let’s we leave the top figures.”
To Antenna 1, the expert explained that the shocking images that have become public of the deaths in Bucha and other cities in Ukraine might even lead to genocide and war crimes, but he warned that proving these crimes in court could be a crooked path. .
“Everything points to the fact that war crimes are being committed, that they are occurring on a large scale and that they are occurring systematically. Which means that crimes against humanity were also committed. I understand why Zelensky classifies this crime as genocide. and that he uses this expression in a political sense, but not so much from a legal point of view. Looking at the trials in international courts that took place in the past, it is still not clear to me that, legally, this is genocide”, he stressed.
Currently, the International Criminal Court is investigating evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place in Ukraine, but several figures from around the world have come forward to defend the new international tribunal model for prosecuting crimes of aggression. Philippe Sands stressed that work was being done, but it was “fundamental” that several countries at the forefront of diplomacy agreed with this solution.
“I believe that the fundamental aspect that will determine the way forward is the position of some key countries. So far no government has opposed. Figures like former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have shown support for the petition with some 1.5 million signatories that will submitted in New York to the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. And I also know that there is already an interim resolution in the European Parliament. But there are four fundamental countries: the United States, Great Britain, Britain, France and Germany. I have been in contact with figures from these countries and no one objected, but one of them should support this option”, he added.
In an interview with Antenna 1, Philippe Sands also stressed that there is currently a “window of opportunity” that cannot be missed and that decisions taken in the coming weeks will be “decisive”. Even because, for international jurists, if the crime model of aggression does not continue, accusations will only focus on the soldiers and commanders responsible for the crime and the focus on Moscow leaders “will cease to exist.” .
The British professor warns that, if you don’t move to a new entity, the process will be lengthy: “The challenge is not to prove that war crimes and crimes against humanity occurred. This is something much more complex. For initial allegations we can talk about months or months.” one year. It is a very slow process”.
With a past associated with Ukraine and Lviv, the London professor also recalled that there was a “painful irony” in the fact that it was on the territory of Ukraine that the first steps were taken to create a concept like genocide.
“The countries and cities where the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity were born are now the objects of these crimes. This has a profound effect. And, in part, may explain why Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister feel a particular connection to international law and these crimes. Lviv was for some time a place of horrific crime and the birthplace of these concepts”, concludes Phillipe Sands, author of ‘East-West Road’, a literary work that brings together de Sands’ personal and family experiences with the works of Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, two former law student at Lviv University who brought the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity to the Nuremberg trial.
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