POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School.
Violence in Ukraine has troubled that nation and the world community for about two years. Recently, Ukraine has renewed and expanded its efforts to afford the International Criminal Court jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute those responsible for mass crimes committed on its territory. Ukraine is now alleging that Russia is responsible, in part, for such crimes.
Ukraine is not a State Party to the ICC’s Rome Statute. However, as written about in April 2014 post, Ukraine lodged an Article 12(3) declaration, which allows a non-Party State to accept the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes within its subject matter jurisdiction that are committed on the State’s territory. Ukraine’s 2014 declaration alleged that crimes against humanity were committed during internal strife in Ukraine between November 2013 and February 2014, responsibility for which it alleged was attributable to Ukraine’s former President and possibly other senior officials in his government. The ICC Prosecutor has been conducting a preliminary investigation regarding this matter but has not yet decided whether to seek authorization to open a formal investigation that would expand her investigative powers and allow for filing of charges against individuals.
Ukraine has now gone further. In a September 8, 2015 press release the ICC reported that the ICC Registrar acknowledged receipt of a second Article 12(3) declaration by Ukraine, in which Ukraine expands its acceptance of ICC temporal jurisdiction from beyond February 2014 to the indefinite future. Importantly, the declaration attributes responsibility for post-February 2014 war crimes and crimes against humanity to “senior officials of the Russian Federation and leaders of terrorist organizations.” Thus, Ukraine’s second declaration opens a politically potent issue, asking the ICC Prosecutor to conduct at least a preliminary investigation into Russia’s alleged involvement in the violence in Ukraine.
In its September 8 press release, the ICC noted that “[t]he provisions of Part 9 of the Statute relating to international cooperation and judicial assistance apply.” Part 9 of the Rome Statute imposes on State Parties the responsibility “to cooperate fully with the Court in its investigation and prosecution of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.” The Russian Federation, however, is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, and thus has no such responsibility to the ICC.
It will be interesting to see how this matter will develop.