European Union Set Up Tribunal To Try Russia For War Crimes In Ukraine

The European Commission on Wednesday laid out the basis to set up a special court to investigate and prosecute Russia for crimes of aggression against Ukraine.

The EU executive arm also outlined how Russian assets – frozen from Western sanctions – can be used as a possible funding source to rebuild Ukraine.

“Russia’s horrific crimes will not go unpunished,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the commission, said in a video on Twitter to announce the move, recalling alleged atrocities discovered in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.

While backing the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigations of Russia for war crimes, among other things, the commission wants to set up an alternative means of investigating Russian crimes of aggression.

This is due to the ICC’s lack of competence to prosecute the offence as Russia does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction in this legal area, an options paper sent to EU member states said.

Instead, the commission wants to set up an international tribunal based on a multinational treaty.

Another option would be to establish a so-called hybrid tribunal based on Ukraine’s national laws and integrate it into international procedures with international judges investigating crimes of aggression.

The commission said that both possibilities for a tribunal to prosecute Russia for crimes of aggression would require backing from the United Nations.

“Russia must also pay financially for the devastation that it caused.

“The damage suffered by Ukraine is estimated at 600 billion euros.

“Russia and its oligarchs have to compensate Ukraine for the damage and cover the costs for rebuilding the country,” the EU president said.

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According to the commission, €300 billion ($310 billion) in assets from the country’s central bank reserves have already been frozen in EU and G7 countries, along with €19 billion in private funds frozen in the EU.

Private frozen assets can only be confiscated in connection with a criminal offence.

On Monday, EU member states approved new rules to make sanctions evasion a crime.

An EU official said that a proposal to define the offence further and its penalties is planned for Friday.

Further challenges arise about Russia’s central bank reserves, the bulk of frozen assets, as these funds need to be repaid to Russia once the sanctions are lifted under international law.

Ms Von der Leyen wants to manage the frozen assets with proceeds going to Ukraine for reconstruction as long as sanctions are in place.

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