War in Ukraine: Brussels in favor of a special tribunal to try « Russian crimes »

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday to work on the creation of a special tribunal to judge « Russia’s crimes » in Ukraine and on solutions to mobilize frozen Russian assets in order to rebuild this country, two undertakings which are announced however difficult.

At the same time, on the ground of military operations, Russian forces are keeping up the pressure to try to seize Bakhmout, a city in eastern Ukrainian territory in the vicinity of which fighting has been raging since summer.

“The enemy continues to concentrate its main efforts on the conduct of offensive actions in the Bakhmout sector”, thus reported at the end of the afternoon the staff of the Ukrainian army.

The Russians had recently claimed the capture of three villages near this city which had 70,000 inhabitants before the war and which is now largely destroyed.

This battle took on all the more symbolic importance for Moscow as the conquest of Bakhmout, with the support of the paramilitary group Wagner, would come after a series of humiliating defeats, with the retreats from Kharkiv in September and Kherson in November.

An employee of the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid was also slightly injured on Wednesday by the explosion of a letter bomb intended for the ambassador, leading kyiv to order a reinforcement of security in all its diplomatic representations.

« A Special Court »

“While continuing to support the International Criminal Court (ICC) [dont le siège est à La Haye] we propose to set up a UN-backed special tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crimes of aggression » against Ukraine, EU executive president Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. a video posted Wednesday on Twitter.

A proposal that must be presented to the Member States for discussion.

The creation of such a tribunal has been demanded on several occasions by the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as by the Baltic countries.

“This is exactly what we have been proposing for a long time”, welcomed the chief of staff of the Ukrainian presidency, Andriï Yermak.

The ICC only has jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine and not Russia’s ‘crimes of aggression’, as Moscow is not a signatory to the Rome Treaty establishing the Court .

This could not judge Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Prime Minister and his Minister of Foreign Affairs, who benefit from immunity from prosecution during their mandate, notes the Commission. » A tribunal ad hoc Jurisdiction over crimes of aggression would make it possible to prosecute the most senior Russian leaders who would otherwise enjoy immunity,” she continued in a preliminary document.

The Netherlands, which already hosts the ICC in The Hague, has indicated its availability to host a special tribunal.

But to set up such a court, broad international support will be necessary, recognizes the Commission. If the proposal has no chance of passing the UN Security Council due to Russian opposition, it may have more resonance in the General Assembly.

Commission officials say they have had initial contacts with the United States — which is not a party to the ICC — about the matter, but no indication has been given of any support from Washington.

Make Russia Pay

The Europeans also want to talk with their partners, particularly within the G7, about their desire to make Moscow pay for the material destruction in Ukraine.

« Together with our partners, we will ensure that Russia pays for the devastation it has caused, using the frozen funds of the oligarchs and the assets of its central bank, » said Ursula von der Leyen.

Member states of the European Union (EU) have already frozen €19 billion in assets belonging to Russian oligarchs and some €300 billion in Central Bank of Russia reserves are frozen in the EU and other G7 countries (26.5 billion and 419 billion Canadian dollars).

With regard to public assets, the Commission proposes to create “a structure to manage these funds and invest them”. The income thus generated could be used directly for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Once the sanctions are lifted, these central bank assets should be returned but they could « be linked to a peace agreement to compensate Ukraine for the damage suffered ».

With regard to the assets of the oligarchs which have been frozen, their confiscation would only be possible in connection with a criminal offence. The EU is in the process of harmonizing the laws of its Member States in order to uniformly punish the circumvention of sanctions, which could serve as a basis for such a measure.

More than 20,000 Ukrainian civilians and over 100,000 military personnel have been killed or injured since the invasion of Ukraine began in February, the EU chief executive has said.

The damage suffered by Ukraine is, according to her, estimated at around 840 billion Canadian dollars (600 billion euros).

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