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E. Dobrowolska: Vilnius Communiqué is another important step towards bringing to justice those guilty for the crime of aggression against Ukraine 

Date

2022 05 27

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Lithuania not only became the first state to initiate the "Hague Process" on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine but also continues to take the leadership in seeking legal opportunities to ensure implementation of justice for the crime of aggression committed by the Russian and Belarusian regimes against Ukraine. The first international conference on criminal responsibility for the crime of aggression, organized by the Ministry of Justice in cooperation with Law and Democracy Centre (Justice Hub), adopted the Vilnius Communiqué which calls for the continuation of the international debate on the need to ensure the criminal responsibility for the crime of aggression of the leaders of Russia and Belarus, and on a possibility of the establishment of a Special International Tribunal.

Following the conference "Criminal Responsibility for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine: What Are Options for Justice?", the Vilnius Communiqué, adopted during the discussions, calls for holding further discussions on the possibility of establishing an ad hoc Special Tribunal to further step up the fight for justice. On 19 May, the European Parliament also expressed its support for the establishment of a Special International Criminal Tribunal to bring to justice those who committed the crime of aggression against Ukraine.

„Today's situation calls for unity across the international community. Russia's act of aggression against Ukraine has rewritten the history of our generation, – Minister of Justice Ewelina Dobrowolska said. – International criminal justice has been a reality since the Nuremberg Tribunal for crimes against the world peace; and in the context of the aggression against Ukraine, justice must triumph over impunity“.

According to Dainius Žalimas, Head of the Centre for Law and Democracy, after the European Parliament expressed its support for the establishment of the Special International Criminal Tribunal for Aggression against Ukraine, the ideas voiced at the international conference "Criminal Responsibility for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine: What Are Options for Justice?" are gaining ground.

Members of the European Parliament call for the establishment of a Special International Tribunal to investigate the crimes of aggression against Ukraine that fall outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court; in addition, the EU institutions should provide the necessary human, administrative and logistical resources for the establishment of this Tribunal, and seek political support in cooperation with international partners such as the United Nations General Assembly.

Furthermore, the European Parliament, in the resolution adopted thereby, called for immediate actions to establish a Special International Tribunal as the ongoing hostilities pose a serious risk of destroying the evidence related to international crimes.

The Vilnius Communiqué, adopted at the Conference, also stressed the need for support and assistance from the international community.

Participants of the Conference - more than 100 government representatives, academics, lawyers, members of intergovernmental organizations and civil society representatives from Ukraine, Poland, the United Kingdom, Latvia, Estonia and other European countries - endorsed the Vilnius Communiqué's commitment to criminalize the crime of aggression against Ukraine in order to ensure that the aspiration to continue seeking justice persists in the minds of the future generations.

The participants also expressed their support for all international and national legal initiatives taken to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine, and endorsed the need to find an effective legal mechanism to ensure the individual criminal responsibility of those responsible for the aggression against Ukraine.

The Communiqué also expresses its support for the proposal made by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Resolution 2436 (2022) and Recommendation 2231 (2022)) to urgently establish an ad hoc Special Tribunal to investigate and prosecute the political and military leaders of the Russian Federation for the crime of aggression.

 „The only way to stop the war in Ukraine is for the parties to stand together and find ways to punish those responsible for international crimes, including the crime of aggression. This has been the worst attack since World War II. The crime of aggression committed by Putin, Lukashenko and other members of the military and political leadership cannot go unpunished; it is therefore necessary to look at all options to prosecute those guilty for the crime of aggression, one of the options being the establishment of an ad hoc Special Tribunal," Ms Dobrowolska emphasized.

The Communiqué calls on States to continue discussions on the possibility of establishing an ad hoc Special Tribunal and to strengthen political support for this initiative; besides, it is necessary to create an international network of lawyers and academics in order to develop and disseminate the idea of an ad hoc Special Tribunal.

Following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Lithuania and other countries contacted the International Criminal Court requesting to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine. The decision to investigate the situation in Ukraine was announced in a record short time – it took one day to make this step. The first Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was also set up to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity, with Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania as members. The International Criminal Court and the European Union's judicial cooperation unit (Eurojust) have also joined the group to help coordinate the investigation.

On 15 March, Minister of Justice Ewelina Dobrowolska sent an official letter to the Commissioner of Justice of the European Commission, Didier Reynders, and the Ministers of Justice of the EU Member States, calling for EU-level consideration of the establishment of an ad hoc Special Tribunal to ensure international criminal responsibility of the Russian and Belarusian dictators and other persons who planned and directed the aggression in Ukraine. Such a Tribunal would constitute an efficient mechanism to overcome the legal obstacles related to the obligatory UN Security Council resolution on the opening of proceedings at the International Criminal Court and national pre-trial investigations under universal jurisdiction.

For the text of the Vilnius Communiqué, see the following website: https://bit.ly/3asZRmR.