Foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra has backed the idea of creating a special tribunal in The Hague to try Russia’s leaders for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.
The European Union last month proposed establishing a court, backed by the United Nations, to try Russian war crimes, while the Dutch parliament voted in October to host it in The Hague, which is also home to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
However, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Karim Khan, has opposed the idea, insisting his court has adequate powers to deal with any allegations of war crimes by Russia in Ukraine.
The ICC is authorised to try war crimes, acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and aggression against another nation, but the last has only been in force since 2017 and only ICC member states who have ratified the treaty can be prosecuted. Russia does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction.
Hoekstra said it was important to ensure Russia’s leaders did not escape justice. ‘We need to look at which avenues have the most support from the international community, in the course of which we expect Russia and possibly other countries will actively try to throw a spanner in the works,’ he said.
Marieke de Hoon, assistant professor of criminal law at the University of Amsterdam, told NOS that the tribunal would deal with charges against political and military leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
‘The big question is what happens if Putin is indicted. Clearly he won’t be extradited by Russia,’ she said.
‘In the Netherlands it’s normal to try people in absentia, but for other countries that’s highly unusual. So it may go no further than issuing arrest warrants.’
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