Russia is not admitted to the International Criminal Court, but the Czech ambassador to the Netherlands, Katerina Sekensova, hopes that the Russian military commander will one day appear in court in The Hague. “The fact that the investigation is already underway is a small miracle,” said her Sequensová, who is also vice-president of the Conference of the Parties to the International Criminal Court, in an interview with Aktuálně.cz.
Is the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the crimes of Russian soldiers in Ukraine still in progress?
In fact, it’s a small miracle that the investigation is going at all. Neither Ukraine nor Russia are parties to the International Criminal Court. Just because Ukraine has transferred jurisdiction to the courts, it is being investigated. And the fact that the investigation was launched so quickly was due to the fact that about 40 states, including the Czech Republic, submitted to investigate crimes in Ukraine.
It is relatively unprecedented for an investigation to be ongoing while a dispute is brewing. Courts usually begin investigations, sometimes years after the investigation is finished. So just the fact that an investigation is underway is a minor miracle. Of course, there is a huge advantage in collecting and analyzing evidence and obtaining testimony because everything is fresh.
Why does the International Court of Justice investigate crimes, usually only after conflicts have ended?
It is simply a priority because it is an aggressive war like no other in modern geopolitics. This is a very different situation than the courts investigate at other times.
The investigation began immediately after the outbreak of war. Months later, the culprit has already been identified. When can people expect the First Judgment?
It’s highly speculative. The investigative process more or less corresponds to the classical course of criminal proceedings. An investigation is first conducted, at some stage all evidence is analyzed, a case is prepared, charges are filed and an arrest warrant is issued. The accused must either appear in court voluntarily or be arrested and taken to The Hague. The International Criminal Court cannot decide without the presence of the defendant.
This is a national court, although it differs from the high-profile criminal proceedings related to the MH17 downing, which is also taking place in the Netherlands. It takes place without the defendant’s presence. However, the International Criminal Court cannot do this and defendants must be present. Without them, the hearing will not begin.
But you can’t expect Russia to hand over a soldier or anyone else to court. Then there is the possibility of aggression crimes. So the fact that Russia attacked Ukraine, but the International Criminal Court cannot deal with it because Russia is not a party to it. So is all the research in The Hague worth it?
It is certainly so. Two things are involved in what you are asking. Who may be prosecuted and subsequently for which crimes? Realistically, we can believe that there may be an intermediate level of command among the defendants. commander.
It’s not that the accused are ordinary soldiers, with perhaps a few exceptions. It’s really an intermediate command level. They allow relatively clear proof of liability, though not entirely straightforward.
You are correct that the perpetrators cannot be prosecuted for aggression. But genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity still exist. And the penalty rate is the same for any of these three crimes, as if it were a crime of aggression.
You talked about intermediate command levels. Can even the country’s principal military or political representatives be tried?
This is a major challenge as it requires conclusive proof that they were aware that a crime was committed or could be committed. It is very difficult to clearly show leadership responsibilities.
You say an investigation makes sense. So do you expect someone to go to court?
I certainly hope so.
But Russia is not the only major country not recognized by the International Criminal Court. The United States and China are taking similar approaches. So if the three powers do not allow it, will the courts have no more influence in international politics?
that’s right. The courts are relatively new and still developing. Over the past decade, one of the criticisms of it was that it was an African court that only dealt with crimes committed in Africa. At the moment it is a global court investigating the situation in Venezuela, Myanmar, Georgia and of course Ukraine.
There are, of course, some limitations as three of the permanent members of the UN Security Council are not parties. And other states are not. This is a limitation, but it does not mean that the court is void or not functioning as it should. Of course, universality is he one of the court’s priorities that the contracting parties seek to achieve.
Several countries, including the Czech Republic, are cooperating in criminal investigations in Ukraine. What can individual states contribute?
Crimes in Ukraine can be investigated by the state itself, and then under the banner of the International Criminal Court. In our country, the public prosecutor’s office is in charge of national investigations, which is purely a matter of national affairs. Similar investigations have been conducted in other countries, the first of which are Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania, which have established international investigation teams under the Eurojust banner.
And there is an ongoing investigation of the International Criminal Court cooperating with this team, but that is its own separate investigation.
For example, how specifically can Czechs contribute to the investigation?
In addition to its own national investigations, it also contributes to the investigative team of the International Criminal Court. There are two options – in the form of human resources or financially. we do both. Since the beginning of July, a senior Czech prosecutor has been working in the investigative team. She was one of the first to expand the team of full-time workers.
And the second option is financial contribution. The public prosecutor’s office has a kind of trust fund that parties can donate to. Then there are various sub-funds that allow you to focus on specific parts of your research. Whether it’s the latest technology support for obtaining evidence, psychological support support for victims, or specialized support for victims of sexual violence or violence against children.
Senior State Prosecutor Lenka Vladacsova explained that Czech police officers will collect testimony from refugees about what happened in Ukraine. Can this contribute to international research?
I do not want to comment on what the Public Prosecutor’s Office is doing. However, at some stage of the investigation, it is possible that they will join other states in the joint investigation team, as did Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians and other countries. Depends on how far the investigation goes.
What is your role in criminal investigations in Ukraine?
Certainly not a survey. Both the prosecutor and the judge are completely independent of the state party, and that is he one of the court paradigms. Investigations and, of course, court hearings are entirely under the control of the prosecutor or judge. Same as the national court system.
So didn’t criminal investigations in Ukraine increase your work at the International Criminal Court?
Not directly from the position of vice president. Because, logically, we are more concerned with organizational issues. But it increased in other ways. It’s a priority, it’s something everyone cares about. You can have someone from the public prosecutor’s office as a guest at the meeting of the working group in The Hague. That person can inform us about the investigation in general, not the details. Events in Ukraine will certainly affect future negotiations on the budget.
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