Important acceptance of ICC jurisdiction
- The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) welcomes the Ukrainian government’s decision to accept International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction over international crimes committed on its territory since February 2014, i.e. since the start of the armed conflict in the Eastern Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea by Russia, says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland. – We consider this a milestone in the fight against impunity in former Soviet countries.
Many armed conflicts followed in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. They were characterised by widespread and serious war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, these crimes were not investigated and those responsible went unpunished. Impunity remains widespread and is an important factor in leading to new conflicts and abuses.
- By referring this situation to the ICC, Ukraine sets an example for the whole region. Justice and truth are important means to achieve reconciliation and lasting peace as well as to prevent future abuses, says Engesland.
Together with its partners in Ukraine and internationally, the NHC has focussed on collecting evidence of war crimes. In June, the NHC and the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) argued in an article in the Kyivpost for Ukraine to accept ICC jurisdiction. Read the article here.
The NHC seeks to step up training and monitoring activities in the Ukraine in order to provide high quality documentation that could be used as evidence in future ICC cases.
The NHC has reported extensively on war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 war in Georgia, as well as on the lack of genuine prosecution by Georgia and the Russian Federation. The NHC together with its partners argued that the ICC should start investigation. Georgia was a member of the ICC during the war, and the ICC has accepted that ICC crimes were committed. Click here to download reportfrom NHC on this issue.
Together with eight Russian and international human rights organisations, the NHC has established the Natalya Estemirova Documentation Centre for North Caucasus (NEDC) to collect and systematize documentation of war crimes and other human rights violations. The centre has great potential to become a leading tool in fighting impunity in this region.
- ICC prosecution of war crimes in Ukraine, and also in Georgia, could become a game changer in the wider post-Soviet region. Such prosecution would send a strong message that crimes will not go unpunished and should go hand in hand with the strengthening of national prosecution of grave crimes, concluded Engesland.