EU Commissioner Reynders asks Ukraine to join International Criminal Court

In light of the debate over the establishment of a war crimes tribunal in Ukraine, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders is asking Ukraine to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague first. "That would be a good signal," he said on Thursday after a discussion with European justice ministers in Luxembourg.

"We ask the Ukrainian authorities to ratify the Rome Statute so that it officially participates in the International Criminal Court so that other possible solutions can be discussed afterward," Reynders said.

According to the EU commissioner who visited Ukraine a few days ago, the political authorities and the prosecutor-general are open to the idea, but the issue is a sensitive one for the military authorities in times of war.

The EU is cooperating with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, one of the institutions fully involved in gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes in Ukraine. Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan wants to investigate all crimes, irrespective of who the perpetrators are. The work is moving forward, Reynders said. By the end of the year, the first files could reach the court and the first trials could start.

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski advocates a special tribunal to try war crimes in Ukraine, but EU member states do not share a common position on the matter yet. Reynders himself wants to reflect on the issue with other international partners, but also suggested "a hybrid solution" with Ukrainian and international judges who could be appointed through the United Nations.

The trial of war crimes will in any case be a long-term effort that will take years. First and foremost, all existing instruments must now be deployed, said Reynders. The commissioner pointed out that 14 EU member states have now opened investigations and that 10 people have already been convicted in Ukraine itself. The courts have also identified 186 suspected war criminals so far. 

Reynders also launched a new call for all member states to rigorously apply sanctions against Russia. Assets worth 17.4 billion euros have been blocked so far, "but 90 per cent of that is due to seven member states," the Belgian commissioner observed.



EU commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders during the Ukraine Accountability Conference in The Hague on July 14, 2022 © Ramon van Flymen / ANP / AFP

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