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U.S. Lawmakers Support International Tribunal To Prosecute Crimes Of Aggression In Ukraine
Beth Van Schaack, the top U.S. diplomat for global criminal justice, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on May 31. She said the tribunal could lead to "the most consequential trial in history since Nuremburg,"
WASHINGTON -- U.S. lawmakers and a top U.S. diplomat expressed support on May 31 for the creation of an international tribunal separate from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to try crimes of aggression that have taken place during the war in Ukraine.
Both French President Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy have recently called for the creation of such an independent, international tribunal.
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U.S. senators and the top U.S. diplomat for global criminal justice, Beth Van Schaack, discussed the current U.S. efforts to make the tribunal a reality at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about holding Russia accountable for crimes of aggression.
Senators debated the plans for the tribunal, acknowledging that many details still remain to be worked out. The current plan calls for the tribunal to be based on the Ukrainian justice system, but hearings would be held outside of Ukraine as long as the war is still going on. They would move to a venue inside the country after the war ends.
The tribunal would target crimes of aggression rather than crimes against humanity currently being prosecuted by the ICC.
Van Schaack stressed the large impact this tribunal, as well as the current efforts of the ICC, would have, stating these efforts would lead to "potentially the most consequential trial in history since Nuremburg," a reference to the war crimes trials held after World War II resulting in sentences for many Nazi war criminals.
Van Schaack also detailed international implications, saying that an international tribunal for crimes of aggression would likely implicate Belarus for assisting in Russian acts of aggression. Additionally, by specifically looking at crimes of aggression, the diplomat said the tribunal could prosecute Russian aggression from as early as the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea.
The State Department also hopes the establishment of a tribunal against aggression would send an international message against "similar blatant violations of state sovereignty," Van Schaack said.
Because the current proposal is based in the Ukrainian courts, the committee agreed that there would need to be significant oversight and capacity assistance from international partners.
Additional challenges exist in the current prosecution of atrocities as the war rages on. Van Schaak emphasized that the tribunal, as well as similar efforts from the ICC and the European Council, would likely take decades to serve justice.
All members of the committee affirmed their commitment to Russian accountability, with one senator stating "impunity is not an option."
With reporting by Shelby Rayer in Washington
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