How Universal Jurisdiction Can Punish Putin and His Minions for War Crimes in Ukraine

Monday, 6 June 2022

The aggressor commits 200-300 war crimes in Ukraine every day, according to the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine. Investigations are underway at the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and the European Court of Human Rights…

However, there is also an alternative mechanism in international criminal justice. Its name is universal jurisdiction, writes the president of the Ukrainian Bar Association, Anna Ohrenchuk, in her article 12 Friends Against Russia: How Universal Jurisdiction Can Punish for Crimes in Ukraine.

More than 15.2 thousand new criminal proceedings have been opened since February 24. 96% are for violating the laws and customs of war.

Investigating such a large number of war crimes and prosecuting so many criminals is a challenge for both international justice and the national law enforcement system and courts. That's why criminals expect that nobody will have got around it.

Universal jurisdiction is another effective tool to combat such impunity.

Its key point is that other countries can investigate international crimes, regardless of where they were committed and the nationality or country of residence of victims or probable perpetrators. Given that such crimes pose an extreme threat to global security.

There is also a narrower approach to universal jurisdiction. Criminal prosecution in another country begins if the international crime was allegedly committed by a citizen of that country; if the crime was committed against a citizen of this country; or if the probable suspect is in that country.

It simplifies the punishment of criminals and relieves the Ukrainian justice system.

About 150 countries have introduced a mechanism of universal jurisdiction, ie implemented into national law the rules of international criminal and humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions, to bring to justice the most serious crimes.

The April PACE resolution also called on countries to use universal jurisdiction to prosecute possible criminals in Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine.

We now know of 12 countries that have opened investigations under universal jurisdiction on the crimes in Ukraine: Germany, Spain, Sweden, France, Lithuania, Canada, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Sooner or later, those who did not imagine themselves on the dock will still be on it. Otherwise, they will remain completely isolated from the civilized world for the rest of their lives.

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