International and national civil society call for immediate ratification of Rome Statute
Feb.23, Ukraine: Ukraine can discourage the commission of grave crimes in its eastern conflict by becoming a full member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Coalition for the ICC said today.
International Partnership for human rights in a press statement said that Ukraine is the March focus of the Coalition’s Campaign for Global Justice, which encourages states to join the ICC Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the only permanent international court capable of trying perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
A letter sent recently to President Petro Poroshenko said that the Coalition urged Ukraine to ratify the Statute without delay, the statement said.
Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens, Europe regional coordinator at the Coalition for the ICC said that Ukraine’s membership in the ICC would send a clear signal that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide will not be tolerated. Ratifying the Rome Statute would also likely deter the future commission of grave crimes as perpetrators would know that they could face justice in The Hague, he said.
Roman Romanov, Human Rights and Justice program director at the International Renaissance Foundation in Ukraine said that “Those who are committed to justice cannot accept a half measure approach.”
Projects manager of the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) Simon Papuashvili said that putting an end to the conflict, which has been going on almost a year, should be priority for all sides involved. However, the truth process has to be handled in a way so as not to override the interests of justice, he added.
President of the International Federation for Human Rights Karim Lahidji said that the peace negotiations must not overshadow a firm commitment to effectively hold perpetrators accountable for international crimes committed throughout the Ukrainian territory, particularly in Crimea and the Donbass region.
“Even if willing, Ukraine is currently unable to carry out an effective investigation into alleged crimes committed in the territories controlled by organized armed rebel forces” , said Olexandra Matviichyk, chair, Center for Civil Liberties.
“Ukraine’s membership of the International Criminal Court would thus not just meet the requirements of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, but would also serve as a practical tool for prosecution of perpetrators of international war crimes.”
On 17 April 2014, Ukraine formally accepted ICC jurisdiction over the so-called Euromaidan events through a special ad hoc declaration. However, the timeframe is limited to 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014. Any crimes committed outside this timeframe cannot be investigated or prosecuted by the Court – a situation that could be remedied were Ukraine to become a full ICC member.
Eastern Ukraine has been wrought by conflict since early 2014, with armed rebel groups facing off against Ukrainian military forces in several regions. There have been reports of grave crimes which could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity under international law.
On 12 February 2015, France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine agreed a new ceasefire to prevent further escalation of the conflict. However, the agreement provides for immunity from prosecution for those who allegedly committed crimes in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
On 4 February, the Verkhovna Rada – Ukraine’s parliament – passed a resolution calling for the acceptance of the ICC’s ad hoc jurisdiction to be extended beyond 20 February 2014, without citing a specific end period. However, the President needs to submit a formal declaration with the Court for this to take effect, the statement said.
Although Ukraine signed the Rome Statute in 2000, its constitutional court ruled in 2001 that the Statute was incompatible with the Ukrainian constitution, effectively preventing ratification ever since. However, in 2014 and again in January 2015, several members of Parliament put forward proposals for constitutional amendment to allow Ukraine to join the Court.
The Coalition for the International Criminal Court is a global network of civil society organizations in 150 countries working in partnership to strengthen international cooperation with the ICC; ensure that the Court is fair, effective and independent; make justice both visible and universal; and advance stronger national laws that deliver justice to victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The Oslo Times