AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday in The Hague that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be brought to justice for his war in Ukraine, and called for the creation of a special tribunal dedicated to adjudicating Russia’s invasion.
“We will set up a separate court to show that these people are not inviolable,” Zelensky told a news conference. “We need justice.”
The International Criminal Court, a permanent war crimes tribunal based in The Hague, in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin on suspicion of deporting children from Ukraine, which would be a war crime.
But the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in Ukraine. The United Nations defines an act of aggression as “an invasion or attack by the armed forces of a state (on) the territory of another state, or any military occupation.”
The European Commission has said, among others, that it supports the creation of a separate international center for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine, which will be set up in The Hague.
“We all want to see a different Vladimir here in The Hague, one who deserves to be punished for his criminal actions here, in the capital of international law,” Zelensky said in a speech earlier in the day, referring to Putin.
“I’m sure we will see that happen when we win and we will win,” he said.
Key legal and practical questions remain about how a new tribunal to rule on aggression would be legitimized, either by a group of states backing it or with the approval of the UN General Assembly.
Russia is not a member of the International Criminal Court and is already denying its jurisdiction. It denies committing atrocities during its conflict with Ukraine, which it described as a “special operation” to “disarm” its neighbor.
Earlier in the day, as he left the ICC after a visit that lasted just under an hour, Zelensky, dressed in his trademark khaki uniform, waved to a Ukrainian family standing outside the ICC building chanting “Slava Ukraine” — or glory to Ukraine.
The Netherlands has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte saying in February that he does not rule out any kind of military support for Kiev as long as it does not bring NATO into conflict with Russia.
Pledging “unwavering support,” Rutte said there were “no taboos” on sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, and that discussions were under way with other countries on the matter, before adding: “We’re not there yet.”
Russia has stepped up its attacks as Ukraine prepares a counter-attack to try to recapture Russian-occupied territories in the south and east. Russian shelling in the southern frontline region of Kherson killed at least 23 civilians on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Bart Meagher). Editing by Andrew Heavens
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