Ukraine took a step towards obtaining justice for alleged crimes committed during the “Maidan” protests by accepting ICC jurisdiction yesterday.
According to the ICC, it received a declaration from the Ukrainian government formally requesting the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over the events in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014.
Acceptance of jurisdiction a vote of confidence for the Court
Although Ukraine is not a member of the ICC, under the terms of Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, states that are not members can accept the jurisdiction of the Court.
Said Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens, the Coalition’s regional coordinator for Europe:
“In the wake of the upheaval in Ukraine, this move is reflective not only of the desire to ensure there is no impunity for the crimes allegedly committed during the Maidan protests, but also of the status the ICC has attained in the world. Representatives of a non-state party have shown their faith in this nascent institution as the body capable of addressing mass human rights violations wherever they may occur.”
The formal declaration comes on the heels of a parliamentary resolution recognizing the jurisdiction of the ICC to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes committed in Kiev during anti-government protests. The resolution cited a number of high-level government officials, including the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, as responsible for ordering government forces to commit a number of crimes, including murder and torture.
The declaration submitted to the ICC explicitly refers to the resolution, and affirms Ukraine’s recognition of the Court’s jurisdiction “for the purpose of identifying, prosecuting, and judging the authors and accomplices” of the alleged crimes.
Now that the formal declaration has been submitted, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) may conduct a preliminary examination to determine whether to open a full investigation. This will take into consideration the Court’s jurisdiction, whether or not Ukraine is itself investigating and prosecuting the alleged crimes, and if an ICC investigation would be in the interests of justice.
If, after all of these analyses, the OTP concludes that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, it must must then request authorization from ICC judges.
Declaration should be followed by ratification
Civil society has long called for Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute.
Ukraine signed the Rome Statute on 20 January 2000, but due to a 2001 constitutional court ruling declaring the treaty incompatible with Ukraine’s constitution, the government has not ratified the Statute.
Tiina Intelmann, the president of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, noted Ukraine’s acceptance of ICC jurisdiction and called on the country to proceed with ratification of the Rome Statute in the near future.
Said Roman Romanov of the International Renaissance Foundation in Ukraine:
“The declaration is an important move to ensure that grave violations of human rights will not be forgotten and impunity will not be accorded to those who commit them. The next step for Ukraine to take is to ensure its full engagement with the ICC as a cornerstone of the international justice system, by undertaking the necessary constitutional reforms to allow for prompt ratification of the Rome Statute.”
The International Federation for Human Rights welcomed Ukraine’s decision, but urged the government to move forward with ratification, as well as expand the scope of its Article 12(3) declaration to ensure the Court’s jurisdiction over recent events in Crimea.