Vitalie Gamurari: International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice can investigate atrocities in Ukraine

The International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice that are both based in The Hague can investigate the atrocities committed in Ukraine. The International Criminal Court probes war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide when it goes to individual criminal responsibility, while the International Court of Justice examines disputes between states, like the current dispute between Ukraine and Russia. Even if Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court, the powers of this Court derive from the Genocide Convention, university lecturer Vitalie Gamurari, doctor of international humanitarian law, stated in a public debate on the issue staged by IPN News Agency.

The expert noted that the use of the International Court of Justice is secondary as the Ukrainian state has the right to examine these atrocities committed on its territory in accordance with the own legislation. Furthermore, for about 20 years since it started to be recognized, most of the states, including Moldova, have used the universal jurisdiction practice, like Switzerland did at the end of the 1990s and the start of the 2000s, when it started criminal cases against citizens of former Yugoslavia, who were granted the refugee status by Switzerland, over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the respective conflict.

As regards the International Criminal Court, this has particular capacities and it has started to examine the situation, but does not have the possibility to examine all the cases. It happened so in the case of the Nuremberg Tribunal as 23 leaders were tried, while the other persons involved were judged by other courts.

There is a group of professors, including foreign ones, who cooperate to establish an ad-hoc criminal tribunal, possibly in Ukraine’s Kharkiv. “This tribunal could have a much greater capacity to probe tens or even hundreds of cases of war crimes and will then have an ad-hoc status, as it happened in the case of the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, or it could substitute the so-called hybrid tribunals as in the case of Sierra Leone,” said the doctor of international humanitarian law.

According to Vitalie Gamurari, practice shows that the regular armies usually do not commit atrocities similar to those witnessed in Ukraine. The military commanders who want to become officers are typically normal persons. They do not aim to become officers to commit war crimes. In this case, Russia should be logically interested in those examinations being conducted.

The expert noted that Moldova should have a firm and clear position on the war in Ukraine. “No one obliges us to subscribe to those sanctions that were imposed by the Western states. Those sanctions were imposed because it is impossible for the Security Council to adopt a resolution (Russia can use veto power as a permanent member, e.n.). If sanctions had been adopted based on a resolution by the Security Council, the Republic of Moldova, based on Article 103 of the UN Charter, would have been obliged to support those sanctions,” stated Vitalie Gamurari.  

The public debate “Atrocities in Ukrainian zones under occupation: what do they tell about and what do they oblige us to do?” was the 236th installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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