Putin’s War of Aggression: Annalena Baerbock Wants a Special Tribunal for Russian Leadership

Putin’s War of Aggression: Annalena Baerbock Wants a Special Tribunal for Russian Leadership

The German chancellor spoke in favor of examining the suspicion of genocide in view of the Russian attacks on Ukraine.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wants to hold the Russian leadership responsible for the war of aggression in Ukraine with a special international tribunal. “We support Ukraine’s desire to establish a special court for crimes of aggression against Russia with international support,” Baerbock said in The Hague on Monday.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs visited the International Criminal Court there and met with her Dutch colleague Wopke Hoekstra. The court must be based on Ukrainian law, the minister said.

Baerbock: war crimes

The Greens politician spoke in favor of examining the suspicion of genocide in view of the Russian attacks on Ukraine. “In the face of this brutality, in the face of war crimes and systematic crimes, in the face of crimes against humanity, we have to see to what extent this does not also assume forms of genocide,” he said. Attacks on power grids can result in hundreds of thousands of people dying of thirst or freezing to death.

Baerbock and Hoekstra also condemned the kidnapping of thousands of children from Ukraine and called for their immediate release. Reports that children from annexed territories were being kidnapped and put up for adoption in Russia were unbearable, she said. This represents an “internationally illegal crime.” Both countries want to work together to ensure that Russia’s war of aggression is prosecuted. The Greens politician had already made it clear in a speech at the Hague Academy of International Law that the Russian leadership should be investigated.

A special court must be complemented by an international component, the minister said. For example, a venue outside Ukraine with financial support from partners and with international prosecutors and judges can sustain the impartiality and legitimacy of this court.

expand international law

At the same time, Baerbock proposed a reform of international criminal law to fill a glaring legal gap. Thus, the legal basis of the International Criminal Court in The Hague must be adjusted in the medium term so that aggressive war crimes can also be prosecuted without restrictions. It should be sufficient that only the status of the victim of an assault is within the jurisdiction of the court. Now, only the UN Security Council can take the case to court, as neither Russia nor Ukraine are contracting parties. There should be “no special way for a country, for an aggressor,” Baerbock said.

A special court “is not an ideal solution, even for me,” admitted Baerbock. “But the reason we need this special solution is that our international law currently has a loophole.” Furthermore, there is no talk of problems 20 years from now, “but of justice today”. You need a “very clear message to the Russian leadership … and therefore also to everyone else in the world that a war of aggression in this world will not go unpunished.”

Advance against Russian decision makers

Baerbock conceded that such a court would initially not be able to indict the “troika” comprising Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Because of his immunity, this will likely only be possible after his term expires. Baerbock’s move is aimed at the Russian elite. It is likely to involve up to 25 members of Russia’s Security Council, starting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

According to legal experts, a special court also has disadvantages. Such a court would have to be established in a long process, from the appointment of judges and prosecutors to the creation of a legal framework. Even a special tribunal offers no guarantee that Putin or his leadership will actually be brought to justice. Because at the moment it seems impossible for them to be extradited.