Quiet amnesty: why Ukraine needs real war crime legislation

Justice may be postponed in time, but it exists. And if it is not given to them within the law, then we can assume that this will open the way to other, illegal forms of restoration of justice.

It is clear that the amnesty should be part of the peace agreements and the national reconciliation plan. And here there will be a lot of difficult and painful issues, which, unfortunately, are not being discussed in Ukrainian society now. They speak only with the slogans “Crimea is Ukraine”, “Donbass is Ukraine”. These are the right slogans, but you need to look for answers to difficult questions. How will we live after reintegration, whenever it happens, together, in one state?

But the fact that war criminals should be punished is one of the tenets of international law.

In the early years of the war, we discovered that the people who coordinated the war crimes were not just ordinary soldiers. We contacted colleagues from other countries and found out that the same people worked in Transnistria, and in Chechnya, and in Abkhazia, and in Ossetia. And I am more than sure that if we contacted the Syrian human rights defenders and checked our lists, we would find that these people were in Syria as well. That is, Russia uses the conflict as a method to achieve geopolitical interests at different points, and it has people trained in how to quickly establish control over the territory. War crimes are just a method of quickly establishing control over a territory. The active minority understands that either they will be killed now or they will leave. And the passive majority understands that it is better not to resist.If these criminals are not punished, the question will arise, to what next point they will go to practice their skills.

What is the significance of the fact that Ukraine has not yet ratified the Rome Statute?

The fact that Ukraine has not ratified the Rome Statute means that we have not become full members of the International Criminal Court. Despite this, Ukraine has submitted two one-off declarations to the International Criminal Court. The court opened a hearing on the Ukrainian case, and now we are at the stage of preliminary investigation. This year, if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, the prosecutor’s office would have already announced whether we are moving to the main investigation stage.

The fact that Ukraine did not become a member of the International Criminal Court hurts Ukraine. Because we have the same responsibilities as the country that has submitted the declaration, but we have no rights. We cannot submit documents in the national language, we cannot vote at meetings of the annual assembly when the budget is approved.

But this in no way relieves the responsibility of investigating war crimes from the national investigating authorities and courts. The International Criminal Court, by virtue of its policy, focuses on people who gave orders – on state leaders, on the commanders of armed formations, who may not have committed crimes with their own hands, but made decisions that made them possible. Therefore, those at the lower and mid-levels of command remain the responsibility of the Ukrainian state.

We have long supported and demanded that the state ratify the Rome Statute. But when it is ratified, this will not mean that the investigation and the courts can relax. They also have to do their job.

What, in your opinion, is the reason why Ukraine has not ratified the Rome Statute?

The reason is complex. Since 2014, we have been campaigning for the Rome Statute to be ratified. And one of the results of our company was sending one-time declarations to the International Criminal Court. Then, in 2016, we achieved amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, because at first the obstacle to ratification was exclusively legal. In 2001, the Constitutional Court ruled that it is impossible to ratify the Rome Statute until changes are made to Article 124 of the Constitution of Ukraine. And in 2016, when the first wave of judicial reform was taking place and amendments were made to the Constitution, it was not without a fight that we made an amendment to Article 124 stating that Ukraine could ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It was an intermediate victory, because, apart from this change, there were transitional provisions. And it was written there that this particular amendment would take effect only after three years.

Why was this done? I talked a lot with the deputies and the Office of the President, which oversaw this reform, and came to the conclusion that banal illiteracy and myths around the International Criminal Court played a role here. Our opponents said that Russia would use this for its own purposes, that it would send thousands of fabricated cases there, and Ukraine would simply fight back. But this does not stand up to criticism. Because the International Criminal Court has already begun an investigation, if Russia wants, it can already send anything there. In addition, at the stage of the main investigation, the court itself conducts an investigation, it does not trust anyone’s side, but opens field offices in the country with its investigators. The Ukrainian authorities were also afraid that the International Criminal Court, with the help of Russia, would begin to prosecute the Ukrainian military – and we have heard that,since the war is not an open conflict, but a hybrid one, the soldiers will be judged only for the fact that they defended their country with arms in hand.

We explained that it was in the interests of the Ukrainian state to check all possible facts of violations by the Ukrainian army. And if they did take place, then bring the perpetrators to justice. Because we are different from the illegal armed groups, which Russia used to seize part of Ukrainian territory and establish its control there.

If Ukraine does this, the International Criminal Court has no right to interfere. It’s like a Damoclean sword – the court hangs over the country, saying: “Do your duty.”

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Hanna Sokolova | Radio Free (2021-09-20T15:30:31+00:00) » Quiet amnesty: why Ukraine needs real war crime legislation. Retrieved from https://www.radiofree.org/2021/01/03/quiet-amnesty-why-ukraine-needs-real-war-crime-legislation/.
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» Quiet amnesty: why Ukraine needs real war crime legislation | Hanna Sokolova | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2021/01/03/quiet-amnesty-why-ukraine-needs-real-war-crime-legislation/ | 2021-09-20T15:30:31+00:00
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