Ukraine 5AM Coalition: it is time to ratify Rome Statute

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Ukraine 5AM Coalition welcomes Volodymyr Zelensky’s step towards deepening cooperation with the International Criminal Court. We believe that the official visit of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to The Hague on May 4, 2023, in particular to the International Criminal Court (ICC), is evidence of our country’s unconditional commitment to the principles of justice and the inevitability of punishment for the most serious international crimes and protection of the interests of victims of the war caused by the aggression of the Russian Federation.

Despite all the myths and doubts that have spread around the ICC in recent years and despite the efforts of Russian propaganda to downplay the role of this institution for the international legal order in the media space, launching an investigation into the situation in Ukraine a week after the invasion, and issuing arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation and Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights under the President of the Russian Federation a year later, effectively demonstrate that the ICC has been and remains to be a key body in ensuring justice for the most serious international crimes committed by the top leadership of any state.

However, nine years into the ongoing armed conflict, the Parliament of Ukraine has not ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC despite numerous declarations of commitment to the principles of the rule of law and international law.

The jurisdiction of the ICC has been extended to the territory of Ukraine since 21 November 2013 as a result of two declarations submitted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 in accordance with Article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute. And while there is no significant difference between RS ratification and declarations in terms of the state’s investigation and cooperation obligations or the ICC’s mandate, the difference lies in the participation rights a state receives after ratification.

In particular, only after the Rome Statute is ratified, Ukraine will have the right to nominate its citizens to participate in the elections of the ICC prosecutor, head of the Registry, judges, participate in the draft of resolutions aimed at developing and strengthening the work of the ICC, vote during the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, gather working groups on the development of changes to the RS, in particular regarding the crime of aggression, receive technical assistance for strengthening national capacity from other States Parties, participate in working groups on reforming, developing, and strengthening the ICC as an institution.

Currently, Ukraine remains a place where mass war crimes have been committed. However, while the Rome Statute is not ratified, our country does not acquire the rights of a full-fledged member of the International Criminal Court – an effective mechanism for holding to account for the most serious international crimes.

It is important that the ratification of the Rome Statute of the ICC is an obligation of Ukraine enshrined in the Association Agreement with the EU. So if Ukraine really intends to become a member of the European Union, the ratification of the Rome Statute is an inevitable step.

A wide community of Ukrainian NGOs in the Shared Guiding Principles on Accountability for Grave Crimes Committed in Ukraine emphasizes that the adoption of the Rome Statute and the establishment of the ICC was a civilizational breakthrough and that all further actions to ensure accountability for international crimes in the course of Russia’s war against Ukraine should develop and strengthen the system of international criminal justice underpinned by the Rome Statute and the ICC.

Ukraine 5AM Coalition calls on the President of Ukraine to initiate the process of ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court before the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

During the press conference, President Zelensky stated that freedom and justice are universal values. Ukraine’s ratification of the Rome Statute of the ICC will demonstrate its sincere intention to take the side of the victims and the people of Ukraine who have been fighting for the same universal values — freedom and justice — for the tenth year in a row.