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    NewsEuropeWhy prosecuting Russia could make the West vulnerable

    Why prosecuting Russia could make the West vulnerable

    The EU and the US want to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin to justice, accusing him of the crime of aggression in Ukraine, but the creation of a special tribunal could leave the West potentially vulnerable to similar cases in the future.

    The West holds that Putin bears the ultimate responsibility for carrying out a serious and large-scale act of aggression, using state military force against another country.

    From a political point of view, the crime of aggression is considered one of the most serious international crimes, Vaios Koutroulis, professor of Public International Law at the Free University of Brussels, told Euronews.

    “There is no formal text that says that aggression is more serious than genocide or war crimes. The sense of the political interpretation is that since a crime of aggression was committed, starting a war, all other crimes can follow during the military operation. From the perspective of public international law, there is no hierarchy between crimes,” the academic pointed out.

    However, going ahead with the creation of a special court to prosecute Putin and his political and military elites could prompt Russia, or other countries, to set up similar bodies against Western governments.

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    “States have to be consistent. If they believe that there is no immunity for state officials from such an international tribunal, then they must accept that if Russia creates a special international tribunal – through a treaty with allies or friendly states or willing to Russia – Western officials will not have immunity from that court either. So are states willing to go down that path?” Vaios Koutroulis said.

    Russia has become “an international pariah”

    Russia and some of its allies could characterize future NATO missions – or, in particular, US-led missions – as acts of aggression, especially if they target countries located within what Russia considers its sphere of influence.

    In the last three decades, NATO has carried out several missions, specifically in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Gulf, Libya and Iraq.

    For now, the United States does not seem concerned about a possible legal reaction, arguing that Russia has damaged its reputation in the international community, with millions of people around the world suffering from the economic effects created by the invasion.

    “As we know, Russia has become an international pariah. Because it has breached international peace and security in such a terrible way, causing rising food prices and food insecurity around the world, a nascent energy crisis, all the destabilization that this war has caused,” Beth Van Schaack, US Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice, told Euronews in an interview.

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    “So Russia’s ability to mount any kind of credible prosecution against Europeans or other defendants is really questionable. The world would not tolerate it, it would not be a credible or legitimate exercise,” he added.

    War crimes do not prescribe

    The International Criminal Court (ICC), based in the Dutch city of The Hague, is already investigating crimes of concern to the international community in Ukraine: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

    Russia does not recognize the authority of the ICC, created by an international treaty called the Rome Statute, which entered into force in 2002. The US is also not one of the 123 member states that have ratified the treaty, but views the role as very important. of the ICC in this investigation and is assisting it with diplomatic tools and legal expertise.

    “In the short term, investigations can be opened, evidence collected, witness testimony preserved and arrest warrants issued,” Beth Van Schaack said.

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    In fact, the US administration formally concluded that Russia has committed “crimes against humanity” following a legal review led by its State Department, Vice President Kamala Harris announced over the weekend during her participation in the Munich Security Conference. . Washington’s goal is to further isolate Putin and galvanize support to ensure that he, and his government, is held to account before international courts.

    Putin has been in power for a quarter of a century, either as prime minister or as president. In 2020, a referendum upheld a constitutional amendment that readjusted presidential terms, allowing him to run two more times and remain in power until 2036.

    But Putin’s immunity should not be demoralizing, Ambassador Beth Van Schaack has pointed out.

    “As long as Putin remains in Russia, he will enjoy impunity for all his crimes. There is no international police force that can cross an international border and capture a suspect. That awaits some kind of political transformation within Russia.”

    “But as I always say, those of us in this field are playing a very long game and there is no statute of limitations for war crimes or crimes against humanity,” he added.

    Source: Euronews Español


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