The UK pledged on Friday to help Kyiv seek recognition of Russia’s “criminal responsibility” for the “illegal invasion” of Ukraine, amid growing international support for a tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called the invasion launched by Moscow almost a year ago an outrageous breach of international order. He said London had accepted an invitation from Kyiv to join a core group of like-minded partners to establish Russia’s legal responsibility.
The atrocities committed by Russia in Ukraine must not go unpunished, Cleverly stressed. “That is why the UK has accepted Ukraine’s invitation to join this coalition, bringing our legal expertise to the table to explore options to ensure Russia’s leaders are held to account fully for their actions.”
Alongside other international partners invited by Ukraine, the UK will shape thinking on how to determine criminal responsibility for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the UK’s top diplomat said. This includes assessing the feasibility of a new ‘hybrid’ court, he added.
A specialised court could be integrated into the Ukrainian judicial system but have foreign elements, such as international prosecutors and judges, as well as foreign funding. Such a court would try Russia’s “crimes of aggression”, crimes for which the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction, as Moscow does not recognise its authority.
The ICC has nevertheless opened an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, as Kyiv has accepted its jurisdiction.
There are major obstacles before a special court can be established and before it tries Russians.
For one, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has opposed the creation of such a court for Ukraine, fearing it would undermine his own investigations into the matter.
Moreover, Russia has already said that any Ukrainian court would lack legitimacy and that Moscow would refuse to extradite the suspects.