The UK will play a leading role in a core group of likeminded partners to pursue criminal accountability for Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has announced today, Friday 20 January.
Alongside other international partners invited by Ukraine, the UK will shape thinking on how to ensure criminal accountability for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
This includes assessing the feasibility of a new ‘hybrid’ tribunal (a specialised court integrated into Ukraine’s national justice system with international elements).
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said:
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an outrageous violation of the rules-based international order. The atrocities we’ve witnessed in Ukraine are diabolical – thousands of soldiers and civilians killed, and millions more displaced, forced to flee for their lives in the most horrific circumstances.
These atrocities must not go unpunished. That’s why the UK has accepted Ukraine’s invitation to join this coalition, bringing our legal expertise to the table to explore options to ensure Russia’s leaders are held to account fully for their actions.
An investigation into the Crime of Aggression could complement established mechanisms for investigating war crimes, including the International Criminal Court and Ukraine’s domestic legal process. Together these parallel processes would help ensure all crimes are fully investigated and that perpetrators are held to account.
In joining this additional core group focused on Crimes of Aggression, the UK will complement its previous support in the pursuit of accountability for Russia’s actions.
In March 2022 the UK led efforts to refer the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has now secured the support of 42 other countries. We have also provided £1 million of UK funding for the International Criminal Court to increase its collection of evidence capacity and provide enhanced psychosocial support to witnesses and survivors. Looking ahead, in March 2023 the UK and Netherlands will co-host an international meeting of Justice Ministers in London to encourage more practical support for the ICC’s work.
The UK has also co-founded the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA) with the US and the EU to directly support the War Crimes Units of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine in its investigations, and appointed Sir Howard Morrison KC as an Independent Advisor to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General.
Through the ACA, the UK has funded a £2.5 million package of assistance including training for more than 90 Ukrainian judges, the deployment of Mobile Justice Teams to the scene of potential war crimes, forensic evidence gathering, and support from UK experts in sexual violence in conflict.
Attorney General Victoria Prentis said:
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is barbaric. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, and we are committed to helping them secure justice for a growing catalogue of war crimes.
Ukraine’s resolve in bringing prosecutions in the middle of a live conflict is extraordinary. By providing funding and legal expertise to Ukraine’s domestic prosecutors and judicial system, the UK is helping them to investigate atrocities committed on Ukrainian soil and, where appropriate, bring speedy prosecutions in Ukrainian courts.
- the crime of aggression means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the UN Charter (per article 8bis(1) of the Rome Statute)
- the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the crime of aggression allegedly committed in and against Ukraine. Ukraine believes that a new special tribunal on the crime of aggression could help ensure that those in Russia’s civilian and military leadership are held to account for the decision to illegally invade Ukraine
- the details of the proposal will matter. The UK would be willing to explore a ‘hybrid’ tribunal (a specialised court integrated into Ukraine’s national justice system with international elements). Any new tribunal would also need sufficient international support and must not undermine the existing accountability mechanisms
- the UK encourages other G7 partners to join the core group
- we continue to strongly support the ICC – it is important that the work of the Core Group and any resulting tribunal complements the ICC investigation’s investigation into the situation in Ukraine
- the UK will host a major international meeting on International Criminal Court investigations in March, co-hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and the Minister of Justice and Security of the Netherlands, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius. It aims to increase the global financial and practical support being offered to the ICC and coordinate efforts to ensure it has all it needs to carry out investigations and prosecute those responsible