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Ukraine calls for Nuremberg-style tribunal to judge Vladimir Putin

LONDON — Western countries must back the creation of a special tribunal to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian foreign minister said.

Speaking at an online event held Friday by the Chatham House foreign policy think tank, Dmytro Kuleba said Russia has committed a “crime of aggression” against Ukraine and will eventually be “held accountable for its deeds.”

“The aim of this initiative is not to replace the International Criminal Court or any other jurisdiction, but to fill the gap that exists in international law and to use the experience of the international community and international law for the benefit of the people and the world order,” he said.

International law experts say a new tribunal is needed because The Hague-based ICC only has jurisdiction over three crimes — war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide — but not over so-called crimes of aggression in the case of Russia. This is because Moscow has not signed up to the specific ICC statute under which countries pledge not to commit such crimes.

This means the ICC will focus on how the war was waged, investigating specific acts that violate the law of armed conflict — but will not be able to prosecute Russia over its decision to launch an attack against Ukraine in the first place.

“Recourse to war in Ukraine amounts to a crime of aggression,” said Philippe Sands, law professor at University College London. “And that is one that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility under international law. It’s the only crime which allows those responsible for the totality of the terrible events we are now witnessing to be held to account.”

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has endorsed the idea, telling the same event a new tribunal would be modeled on the plan used during World War II that eventually led to the creation of the International Military Tribunals and the Nuremberg trials.

He said he has sent the documentation on the initiative to governments for their consideration, including the EU, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and some Baltic states, hoping they will take the matter forward.

The wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s showed that new tribunals can be created if there is the political will, Sands added, referring to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia established by the U.N. in 1993.

“In January 1942, it must have been unimaginable that Nazi leaders like Hermann Göring and others would find themselves in the dock, and yet three years later that is what happened,” he said.

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