Home World News “Ukraine will make sure to avoid hasty justice”

“Ukraine will make sure to avoid hasty justice”


This Wednesday, May 11, the Prosecutor General of kyiv, Iryna Venediktova, explained in a press release that a first war crime trial should open in Ukraine in the context of the armed conflict which has pitted it against Russia since 24 february. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian soldier, is accused by local authorities of shooting an unarmed sixty-something in the street with his gun. He faces life imprisonment. However, no details were given on the circumstances of his arrest.

What conclusions can be drawn from this trial which is about to begin? Interview with William Julié, lawyer at the Paris Bar specializing in international criminal law.

Marianne: Ukraine announced this Wednesday, May 11 the opening of a first trial for war crimes. Publicity stunt, real desire to document war crimes as quickly as possible…: what messages does kyiv intend to convey with this news?

William Julie: The main message is that the judicial institution and the rule of law still prevail during the war. It is amazing to see that in a country that is experiencing high intensity conflict today, court trials can still take place. A civil justice and not military moreover. This is proof that there is still a rule of law in Ukraine and that the institutions are holding up.

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Obviously it is not perfect and there is nothing ordinary about this situation. But, fundamentally, we know that it is all the same better when there is a judicial institution than when there is none. We also see in the process of rebuilding countries after conflicts that justice has a central place. But the fact that the country’s institutions remain viable in times of war is, in itself, a message sent to the international community but also to Russia.

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On the trial that will open, can we not fear an expeditious justice or infringements of the rights of the defense in view of the context?

I am not in a position to judge a trial that has not opened and its compliance with the rules of law. It is obvious that given the context, the sensitivities are exacerbated and that the emotion will be strong. I have the idea that Ukraine will ensure that justice is not rendered hastily and that a fair trial is held. Failure to do so would not only be serious in terms of respect for the rule of law, but would also constitute a major miscommunication in the context of a trial that is being talked about today around the world. It has escaped no one that Ukraine, in this conflict, has understood the importance of communication. Therefore I would be very surprised if she made this mistake.

But are we legal? Wouldn’t it have been easier to let the International Criminal Court hear this trial?

Ukraine has the right and the duty to judge crimes that are committed on its soil. We must not forget that the ICC is a subsidiary mechanism and that international justice only exists when national justice cannot be rendered. International justice replaces failing states. In this case, we see that the institutions hold in Ukraine and that they are capable of conducting investigations and instructing trials. We should also remember that if Ukraine has not ratified the Rome Statute, it has made declarations of voluntary acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Court, which allows the ICC to have jurisdiction in the context of this conflict.

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Still, international justice has its limits in the context of this conflict…

The International Criminal Court has been much criticized. Often, moreover, by those who do not wish to see it develop. Certain criticisms are certainly legitimate. A number of representatives from African countries say – rightly – that the ICC was more focused on Africa than elsewhere, for example. But this is no longer so true today. It also remains that it is difficult to investigate certain countries such as the United States. Some criticisms are therefore justified, but it is not because investigations fail to go all the way that the system itself should be called into question. It is better to have a system that works imperfectly than no system at all.

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In addition, the ICC has demonstrated its ability to hold trials leading to convictions of a variety of officials, including some of the highest political rank, and others resulting in acquittals, demonstrating that the system question gives full scope to the possibility of both prosecuting and defending oneself. Furthermore, investigating and issuing international arrest warrants, even if the cases do not always result in a judgment, is always better than doing nothing. People who are the subject of an arrest warrant from the ICC, distributed through the Interpol channel – and we know that the said warrants can target incumbent heads of state – can only with great difficulty go to other places. ‘other countries. This is still a significant obstacle to their freedom.

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