Russia’s war of aggression: Baerbock wants reform of international law

Status: 07/17/2023 5:40 a.m

Foreign Minister Baerbock wants to sue Russia for the war in Ukraine – and calls for a reform of international law. The hurdles for prosecution are too high.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is committed to reforming international law so that perpetrators of a war of aggression, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, can be held accountable. “In the 21st century, no one should wage aggressive war and remain unpunished,” demanded the Green politician before a trip to New York. There she wants to take part in a ceremony at the United Nations (UN) to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the International Criminal Court (ICC). A speech to the UN Security Council and a meeting with the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, are also planned.

“In the eyes of the perpetrators, the ICC is already a sharp sword,” said Baerbock. In the eyes of the victims, he is the hope that their suffering will not go unpunished. “That’s why a gap in law enforcement is particularly painful,” said the minister. In the case of crimes of aggression against “the most precious asset we have: our peace”, the hurdles for prosecution are still too high. International law must be further developed in order to do justice to “the realities of the 21st century”.

Russia’s right of veto

The Minister will be accompanied by the German judge candidate for the Court of Justice, Ute Hohoff. During a visit to the court’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, in January, Baerbock had already proposed changing its legal basis – the Rome Statute – so that the offense of aggressive war could also be prosecuted without restriction. It should be sufficient if the victim state of an aggression falls under the jurisdiction of the court. Currently, only the UN Security Council can refer the case to the court, as neither Russia nor Ukraine are contracting parties. As a permanent member, Russia has a right of veto in the Security Council.

Baerbock also supports the proposal to hold the Russian leadership accountable for the aggressive war against Ukraine by means of a special tribunal. Such a tribunal should be based on Ukrainian law. International elements could include a location abroad, international judges and prosecutors, and a supporting UN General Assembly resolution. According to the federal government, the German position is shared by the other G7 countries and numerous EU members. France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the USA and Great Britain also belong to the G7 round of economically strong democracies.

Baerbock: kidnapping of Ukrainian children barbaric

Baerbock also criticized: “The barbarity of the Russian war is particularly evident in the fate of the many thousands of children who were abducted from the Ukraine to Russia.” Russia not only robs them of their childhood, but also of their future and identity. According to Ukrainian information, approximately 20,000 children were deported by Russian authorities. In mid-March, the ICC therefore issued arrest warrants against Putin and the Russian child rights commissioner Maria Lwowa-Belowa for war crimes.

A summit of the Brics countries from August 22nd to 24th in South Africa is eagerly awaited. If Putin arrives, he could be arrested. The ICC launched an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine shortly after Russia’s war of aggression began in February last year. Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan sent the largest team of investigators the court has ever deployed to the war zone. A separate office was also opened in Kiev.

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