"Putin Tribunal" to Indict about 20 Russians: Interview with Ukraine's Envoye for War Trials

Tuesday, 11 April 2023 — , European Pravda

Anton Korynevych is a Ukrainian international lawyer who represents Ukraine in matters related to the international legal prosecution of the Russian Federation and Russians for crimes against Ukraine. His focus is on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Korynevych believes that the crime of genocide against Ukraine will be proven.

A separate priority is the investigation of aggression in the new international tribunal, which is yet to be created.

Anton Korynevych has told "European Pravda" what Ukraine plans to do. A video of the interview is available in Ukrainian.


How to carry out orders to secure convictions for Putin

Ukraine targets condemning Putin for the crime of aggression.

First, the crime of aggression is the easiest to prove: the fact of Russia's aggression against Ukraine is undeniable. Putin's role is obvious. A few months are enough to prepare indictments and take the case to trial.

Secondly, all the crimes committed by the Russians on our land since 2014 originate from the crime of aggression. So it will not be systematically correct to punish the Russians for the consequences without investigating the prime cause.

International law clearly states that aggression is a crime. And Europe has not seen such brutal, frank, cynical aggression as it broke out on February 24, 2022, since WWII.

Who will end up on the "bench" of the tribunal?

The head of state, Vladimir Putin, as well as representatives of the political and military leadership of the Russian Federation, who gave and still give orders for an aggressive war against Ukraine, are responsible for the aggression.

International law recognises the crime of aggression as an elitist crime — leadership crime. Only those who gave orders to wage war can be found guilty of it.

We assume that around 20 people will be charged.

For example, they can be permanent members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation (12 people, including Putin. – EP). This means that Russian Prime Minister Mishustin and Foreign Minister Lavrov should be among the defendants.

Also, the defendants at the tribunal may include, for example, military commanders. It is only about the top management.

This tribunal will not prosecute Russian propagandists.

They and other Russian military, civilians, and representatives of occupation administrations who committed crimes in Ukraine should also be held accountable but within the framework of different legal processes.

How can the tribunal start working?

We have created an informal association – a core group, which now includes 33 states and several international organisations. The lawyers of these states discuss how to create a tribunal.

All coalition members support the idea that those who committed the crime of aggression should be held accountable. However, each state may have its own vision of how to create this mechanism. There are three options:

- the creation of a special tribunal by agreement between Ukraine and the United Nations, which the UN Secretary-General will sign to implement the previously adopted resolution of the General Assembly

- a multilateral agreement on the creation of a tribunal between Ukraine and interested states;

- the so-called "hybrid," or internationalised tribunal, raises the most questions because it is flexible, and the only thing determined in advance is that the basis of the "hybrid" tribunal should be Ukrainian legislation.

This court can be created in Ukraine, in The Hague, or any other location in Europe. There may be Ukrainian judges and prosecutors, international, or a mixed composition.

For Ukraine, the priority is to create a maximum international tribunal, which will act on behalf of the international community, not a "hybrid" one. However, at present, not a single option has been chosen.

Chance of a trial against Russian leaders in absentia

Convicting the leadership of Russia is very real. History teaches us that both current and former heads of state have been held accountable. We also understand that Putin will not go to countries that agree to arrest him and hand him over to the court.

Therefore, to legally convict Putin while he is still in the Kremlin or a bunker, it is necessary to establish a procedure for conducting in absentia proceedings.

It is challenging but real. We are discussing it with our international partners.

As a rule, in absentia convictions are not applied in international tribunals but history has already seen two exceptions. One is the Nuremberg Tribunal, where Martin Bormann (assistant, personal secretary of Hitler, convicted in Nuremberg and executed) was convicted in absentia. The second exception is the special tribunal for Lebanon (currently in operation and has already been issued in absentia judgments).

Therefore, we are also discussing a conviction in absentia with our colleagues.

The legal and political effect will be significant even if the court approves warrants of Shoigu, Gerasimov, Zolotov, Patrushev (heads of the Ministry of Defence, General Staff, Rosgvardiya, and the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, respectively), as well as the warrant against Putin himself for their accusations of aggression.

This has already happened in the context of the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin.

We already knew that Putin was a war criminal. But the warrant changes the political and legal reality around this person. Now, Putin is officially a suspect in committing a war crime, and meeting with him is simply unacceptable for those leaders who respect themselves.

Next decisions of the International Criminal Court regarding other international criminals in Russia

The International Criminal Court (ICC) currently enjoys unprecedented support and assistance from international partners, including funding. The court and prosecutor of the ICC have all possible support from Kyiv, and an ICC field office is opening in Ukraine. Therefore, we believe that new arrest warrants are to be issued soon.

The ICC has brought charges for one crime - the abduction of Ukrainian children because this crime is the easiest to prove. The suspects are Putin and Lvova-Belova, who signed the criminal orders.

However, the Russians have also committed a vast amount of other war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of genocide. Indiscriminate shelling of civilian objects and vital infrastructure, torture, sexual crimes - everything must be investigated.

I point out that it is not about thousands of cases in The Hague or the ICC.

As a Ukrainian international lawyer, I assume that there will be arrest and extradition warrants to The Hague for dozens of people. The overwhelming majority, thousands of Russian war criminals, must be persecuted by the Ukrainian legal system.

We expect the ICC to investigate the role of Russian propagandists. Ukraine has got the first sentences for incitement to genocide (there were reports of a default judgment against the former director of RT, Anton Kuznetsov­-Krasovsky. - EP).

Crime of genocide

Russian propaganda publicly incited the genocide of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian nation. They published simply terrible articles. We remember these texts, such as "What Russia should do with Ukraine."

The fact that a Ukrainian court handed down a verdict is very good because it means that a practice is already being developed. The crime of genocide is not only the most severe international crime but also the most difficult to prove.

Incitement to genocide is easier to prove than actual genocide. On the other hand, it is understandable that if there is incitement to genocide, then there is a risk of genocide itself.

I am convinced that Russians are committing genocide in Ukraine.

The Russians must be punished for it.

However, for the ICC to initiate an investigation into genocide, it is not enough to prove that Russians are destroying the Ukrainian national group and the Ukrainian people. We need a so-called dolus specialis, or special genocidal intent.

This evidence takes more time, but we are working on it.

When there are court rulings in Ukraine under the "genocide" paragraph that experts from the ICC prosecutor's office can read, and when they see that we have proven dolus specialis, then we will see an international investigation.

Because as I repeat, in my opinion, we are dealing with the genocide of Ukrainians by the Russian Federation, in which specific individuals, representatives of the Russian Federation, were involved.

When can we expect rulings?

There is a saying, "Though the mills of justice grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding fine." Indeed, justice is a matter of time.

The ICC currently has everything it needs to work in Ukraine effectively, but it cannot begin trials until suspects are handed over to The Hague. However, in the situation with the ICC, I hope for good, positive news because arrest warrants are also important.

The situation is different with the crime of aggression. The toughest task is to create a special tribunal. But when it is created, I am confident that the investigation will move quickly because proving the crime of aggression is relatively simple. However, to make this happen, we must start working now. It is crucial to conduct legal work as quickly as possible and lay the groundwork for political decisions on establishing the tribunal.

We are convinced that what we are doing now will lead to the eventual creation of the tribunal. The sooner this happens, the better.


by Sergiy Sydorenko

Editor, of the European Pravda

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