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International Criminal Court; Ukraine: Indefinite Jurisdiction over War Crimes

(Sept. 14, 2015) On September 8, 2015, Ukraine gave wider jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to handle any crimes that occurred in the eastern part of Ukraine since February of 2014 in the conflict there between Russian and Ukrainian loyalists. On April 17, 2014, Ukraine had accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC for crimes that took place between November 2013 and February 2014, but the time frame has now been extended indefinitely. (Matt Belenky, Ukraine Grants ICC Wider Jurisdiction to Investigate War Crimes, PAPER CHASE (Sept. 9, 2015); Press Release, ICC, Ukraine Accepts ICC Jurisdiction over Alleged Crimes Committed Since February 2014 (Sept. 8, 2015).)

The expansion of the ICC’s role came as a result of a declaration, in a letter sent by Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin, to Herman von Hebel, the Registrar of the ICC. That letter referred to the earlier legislative declaration giving the ICC jurisdiction over crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed by Russia and by terrorist groups. The declaration was submitted based on article 12, paragraph 3, of the Rome Statute of the ICC. (Letter from Ukraine Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin to ICC Registrar Herman von Hebel [Letter] (Sept. 8, 2015), ICC website.) That article specifies that a non-party state may accept the jurisdiction of the ICC by sending a declaration to the Registrar. (Rome Statute of the ICC, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.183/9* (in force July 1, 2002), ICC website [click on Part 2 to view article 12].)

Klimkin also expressed in the declaration Ukraine’s willingness to cooperate with the ICC. (Letter, supra.) The document will now be sent to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC for consideration, but Ukraine’s action in accepting ICC jurisdiction does not mean that the Court will automatically undertake an investigation. The ICC prosecutor will determine, based on the level of available information on crimes having been committed, whether or not to request authorization from the Court’s judges to open a formal investigation. Following any such investigation, the Prosecutor may opt to ask the judges to issue summonses or arrest warrants for suspect individuals. (Press Release, supra.)