Putin’s use of military force is a crime of aggression

The writer is a professor of law at University College London and the author of ‘East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Anti Human’

President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch attacks on Ukraine posed the greatest challenge to the post-1945 international order, a foundation based on the idea of ​​the rule of law and the principles of self-determination for the country. all peoples and prohibit the use of force. This is not the first time that Russia has had a military interest in the territories it is currently seeking to occupy: in September 1914, Russia captured the city of Lviv, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee home. West, including my ten-year-old grandfather. The Soviet Union returned in September 1939 to mount a second offensive, and then again in the summer of 1944, continued to take control until Ukraine gained independence in 1991.

Thus, the use of Russian military force in these areas is not unusual, although for Europeans who have lived three generations without experiencing it on such a scale, the Last week’s event was a real shock. History is not only lost, and memories are easily rekindled. One of the differences today is that the rules that exist to protect us from such actions are reflected in the Charter of the United Nations, the closest thing we have to an international constitution. Those are the most important commitments of the Charter that Putin has cut. His televised speech offered a series of fanciful reasons for the invasion: a great Russia, a fake Ukraine, a Nazi Ukraine, a genocide being committed against people. Russian people, etc. and Slobodan Milosevic’s hope for a Greater Serbia.

Putin gambled, hoping that the West would seize the moment. After its own set of failures, including an illegal war, defeat in Iraq, and the recent collapse of political will in Afghanistan, along with oligarchs’ money holdings and dependence dependent on Russian gas, he hoped that the West did not have the stomach to stand. depending on your actions. He may be right, but his bet poses a serious challenge, and one that only sanctions and finances cannot solve.

More is needed, and it needs to be fast. Faced with such blatant violations of the rules, it is lawful to act collectively to protect Ukraine and the basic rights of its people, by providing military equipment, taking steps to prevent block Russia’s use of air power, and finally, launch bases to enforce safe zones and draw boundaries that Russia is not allowed to cross.

Also, so is the problem of crime, even if I’m not very keen on such labels. Putin’s use of military force is a crime of aggression, illegal waging of war, an idea originating in Nuremberg as a “crime against peace”. The horror images seem to suggest targeting civilians, which is a war crime and possibly also a crime against humanity (a legal concept that has its origins, such as the term genocide, possibly originating from the city of Lviv). The International Criminal Court – a child of the Nuremberg Courts – has jurisdiction over some of these crimes (war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not aggression) committed on the territory Ukraine. The Russians are subject to its jurisdiction, and being president offers no immunity. The ICC Prosecutor, Karim Khan, has the power to open a formal investigation and, if the evidence supports and the judges allow, to proceed with an indictment and prosecution.

However, the ICC has a loophole because its jurisdiction has not yet extended to crimes of aggression committed on Ukrainian territory. Why not set up a dedicated international criminal court to investigate Putin and his friends for this crime? After all, it was the Soviet jurist, Aron Trainin, who did a lot to bring “crimes against peace” into international law. As Francine Hirsch noted in her book Soviet judgment at NurembergMuch of Trainin’s ideas convinced the Americans and British to include “crimes against the peace” in the Nuremberg Statutes and indictments against the German defendants.

Putin knows all about Nuremberg: his brother died during the siege of Leningrad at the age of two, and he seems to be a famous 1946 sentencing defender. Three years ago, he sued the European Parliament for opposing the Court’s conclusion, with the consequence that the 1938 “Munich betrayal” caused so much horror, allowing Czech territories to merged in the hope of appeasing Hitler.

Unable to appease Putin. Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea and now all of Ukraine. On it go. Let him reap what he has sown, including Nuremberg’s legacy. Investigate him personally for this most heinous crime.

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