International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Russia

Russia Prohibits Syrian Ceasefire

Both Russia and China have vetoed the draft resolution proposed by the UN Security Council to declare a ceasefire in Aleppo. The ceasefire would have lasted seven days to allow for aid to be supplied to the more than 100,000 people under siege in Aleppo. The resolution was presented to the UNSC jointly by Egypt, New Zealand, and Spain. Venezuela also voted no and Angola abstained from voting; however, the other 11 UNSC members supported the resolution. Russia vetoed the resolution, claiming it did not meet the 24-hour traditional analysis period to review the wording of the resolution. Russia’s veto of the resolution helps preserve the military gains by Syrian troops. “This is the sixth time in five years that Russia has used its veto power to block a draft resolution on Syria” (BBC). The continual blockage by Russia to bring about a ceasefire in Aleppo only allows for the perpetration of more violence and the denial of necessary materials and medical aid.

Russia Withdraws Support From The ICC

A day after the court published a report claiming/classifying the Russian annexation of Crimea as an occupation, Russia has stated that it is formally withdrawing it’s signature from the ICC.

On Wednesday 16, November, the Russian foreign minister announced and carried out the orders of the president Vladimir Putin, “saying the tribunal had failed to live up to hopes of the international community and denouncing its work as “one-sided and inefficient””. The court has been accused of being one-sided numerous times and over the past couple of weeks; many countries have shown their displeasure with the court by withdrawing.
Russia signed the Rome Statute in 2000 and has been cooperating with the court, but it has not ratified the treaty, thus they were not in the courts jurisdiction, Even though this move is symbolic it will not change or effect the courts actions much. Instead they are taking the court’s credibility aw694940094001_5181416872001_what-does-vladimir-putin-hope-to-accomplishay.

“This is a symbolic gesture of rejection and says a lot about Russia’s attitude towards international justice and institutions,” said Tanya Lokshina. of Human Rights Watch. “On a practical level it will not make much difference, but it is a statement of direction: it shows that Russia no longer has any intention of ratifying the treaty in future or of cooperating with the court.”

Russia changed its view on the court as early as 2008,after the ruling to investigate the war between Russia and Georgia, to bring justice to the victims.

The ICC Commissioner says that there is no substitute to the ICC, and he hopes that countries will start realizing how important it is. “By withdrawing from the Rome Statute, leaders may shield themselves with immunities – but it will be at the cost of depriving their people of the protection of a unique and essential institution,” he warned.

Russia’s Bid for Human Rights Council

(New York City) On October 28, the United Nations General Assembly will select new members for the Human Rights Council. Russia is running for a chance to represent Eastern Europe at the council (against Croatia and Hungary), which has two available seats. But the crime that they have committed in Aleppo has put them under fire and is hindering their chances.

Human Rights Council is considered to be the “world’s foremost human rights body”. More than 80 human rights and organizations, that include Human Rights Watch and Refugee International, have urged UN member states to drop Russia from the running, because of their military campaign in Syria. “Russia’s gross disregard for civilian lives in Syria and its responsibility for illegal attacks makes it unfit to serve on the council,” Louis Charbonneau of Human Rights Watch.

2008_un_humanrightscouncilRussia has been supporting President Assad’s regime in Syria against the rebels and ISIS since September of 2015. Since then they have committed war crimes. Human Rights watch says that since September 19, 2016, “The attacks included the use of barrel bombs, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons, and damaged or partially destroyed at least five hospitals in six separate attacks”. Russia have also been continually been providing the Syrian government with weapons.

I agree with these organizations, Russia must learn that there are consequences for their actions. I feel as if many have called them out on their wrong doings, but nobody has taken action. I feel as if this will help start sending the right message that the international community recognizes the crimes that they have committed and will not stand for it.

The White House tolerates an atrocity in Syria


Tuesday evening, The Washington Post reported that the United States acted illogically in response to the attack on UN humanitarian aid trucks in Syria the day prior. Although the Red Cross and UN officials suggested a war crime had been committed, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to give up on the US’s tentative relationship with Russia ― one of the parties suspected to be responsible for the horrific bombing. The State Department recorded Kerry declaring that the previously discussed cease-fire agreement, clearly violated by this vicious act, was “not dead” and that talks with Russia should continue. There is abundant evidence that the aid convoy, distinctly marked “humanitarian”, had not deployed before those parties involved in the conflict had been notified of its incoming presence. Russian and Syrian officials deny any and all responsibility for Monday’s attack, but contrary to their unconvincing testimony, there is little doubt about their involvement at this point. How alarming is it that our government is willing to show an overwhelming level of tolerance for such abhorrent atrocities for the sake of protecting a proposed alliance with Russia, the alleged perpetrator of this attack?

When will the ‘blame game’ in Aleppo end?

57e12b8fc46188a4178b45e4-1It is clear from the crisis in Syria over the past five years that no significant progress is being made to end the violence. In fact, matters have gotten increasingly worse. Despite a cease-fire being put in place between the Syrian government and the rebel groups (excluding Isil), attacks continue to inflict havoc in Syria. Just this past Monday an attack occurred in Aleppo, which is located in the northwest corner of Syria. A UN aid convoy carrying flour and other emergency supplies for 78,000 citizens in Aleppo was destroyed by a series of bombs. Residents described that “the bombs were falling like rain”. More than 20 people were killed. This attack is a major issue because it destroyed the cease fire causing the UN to suspend all aid convoys to Syria, a detrimental consequence for civilians. Fingers are being pointed at who is responsible for the attack; the US is blaming Russia and Assad while Russia is blaming rebel terrorist groups. Furthermore, Russia’s defense ministry referenced drone footage stating that terrorists were driving a truck carrying a heavy mortar alongside the convoy before it was bombed. However, monitors in Aleppo captured footage of more than 35 bomb strikes in the area. Innocent civilians are dying and no has the audacity to take responsibility and provide reparations.

Genocide in Ukraine

In the 1930s, Ukraine was in a major famine caused by russia. It was caused because Ukraine wanted their independence and they tried to get it in starting in 1917. When they lost the civil war, Ukraine was owned by different countries in europe. The Soviet Union started to take large amounts of their grain, which was how they made their money and got their food. This led to a famine, where according to The history place, then led to 7 million deaths. To me this should be considered genocide because Russia unreasonably took all of the citizens supply, thus targeting citizens.There has not been much done to hold Russia accountable or to give Ukraine the justice they deserve.

Putin and Russia Lift Ban on Missile Sales to Iran

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin approved the delivery of a missile system to Iran. The missile system could possibly complicate the negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program that Washington has been working so hard on. Additionally the sale potentially undermines the efforts of Obama’s administration to sell Congress and foreign allies on the nuclear deal. This is problematic since the U.S. and Iran are still struggling to complete the deal. Also if Iran has advanced air defense missile, Israel and/or the U.S. will have a harder time threatening Iran with airstrikes if they ignore agreements. No timetable has been announced for the deliverance of the weapons to Iran, but the sale was suspended five years ago because of a flurry of UN sanctions against Iran.

Russia has said that the missile sale will not complicate negotiations; instead it will help Iran along. They believe that the missile they are selling (S-300) is a defensive weapon and does not pose a threat to Israel. The Obama administration fears that this deal could be the first of many between Russia and Iran including a deal that would exchange food for oil and this would raise potential sanctions concerns.

A display of S-300 missiles in Russia. These are the missiles that are being sold to Iran.

While Iran has denied repeatedly that it is using its civilian nuclear program to mask their efforts of building a bomb, much of the West is dubious. Arming Iran with missiles is not appeasing these fears.

Read more here.

Regional Justice for Russia: The Role of the ECtHR

When considering recent Russian violations of international law, from the invasion of Crimea to the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by the Russian army in Chechnya to ongoing Russia human rights violations in the form of police brutality, a corrupt legal system and laws targeting LGBT people, there are first seems to be little opportunity for international justice to intervene. While international sanctions like the kind being currently imposed on Russia in retaliation for its invasion of Crimea can be effective in spurring policy changes as we witnessed recently in Iran, sanctions do not have the same goals of reconciliation, reparations, accountability and deterrence that ideally accompany transitional justice mechanisms, whether through the ICC or traditional systems. Russia is not a state party to the ICC, and as a member of the UN Security Council, it has the power to veto any UN referrals or ad hoc criminal tribunals. Yet where international justice fails, regional justice plays a key role.

Russia has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1996, and so is under the jurisdiction of the associated European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The court acts as an official mechanism for Russian citizens to receive justice and acknowledgement of abuses perpetrated by the Russian state:

“Russian citizens have overloaded the system with petitions, and the ECtHR frequently has chided the Russian state for failing to address the underlying conditions that lead to these recurring human rights violations. At the same time…ECtHR decisions have been repeatedly cited by Russia’s highest constitutional tribunal—the Constitutional Court—in its determinations dealing with civil and social rights” (Pomeranz 17).

The ECtHR enjoys a high level of legitimacy within Russia, even at the state level, and therefore has a unique position to influence human rights norms. Citizens take advantage of the court to achieve reparations from the state for crimes ranging from torture, enforced disappearances and murder to judicial corruption and unfair court rulings. As Emma Gilligan writes in her book Terror in Chechnya “It [the ECtHR] now stands as the only avenue for moral justice and financial compensation for Chechen civilians” (Gilligan 182). Victims have been bringing their cases to this court, and although there has not been any accountability for perpetrators, the Russian government has recognized the court’s legitimacy and has been paying the ordered monetary compensation to victims. Alena Ledeneva highlights the key role of the ECtHR in her book Can Russia Modernise, suggesting that the court provides a recourse for citizens hurt by corruption and corrupt courts: “In modern Russia, however, sistema [informal corruption networks]’s victims can receive the protection of international law. International law courts provide an exit, even if it is not an easy road to take” (Ledveneva 153).

Could Putin face international justice?

This article, written by former Bosnian foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations Muhamed Sacirbey, explores the potentiality of Russian President Vladimir Putin being deterred from his actions in Crimea and Ukraine by the threat of international justice.  Over the past few days, an overwhelming majority, 93% to be exact, of Crimeans voted to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia, a political move that has incited protest from Western powers and perpetrated the application of sanctions on more than two dozen Russian officials.  This development has also jeopardized the future of Ukrainian Tartans, who have moved back to their homeland of Crimea and are now under the ominous shadow of ethnic cleansing under Putin’s  movement of Russian Imperialism. This has started the discussion of whether or not the International Criminal Court has the ability to put a stop to this.

As we learned in lectures, a few qualifications must be met before the ICC is able to take action.  First, the crimes must be of a systemic nature and fall into one of the categories listed in the Rome Statute. Second, either Ukraine or Russia must be unable to try the perpetrators in their own national courts. Sacirbey makes the case that the threat of ICC prosecution may be the most effective way to contain Putin’s territorial ambitions in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.  However, I see certain difficulties in this strategy going forward.  First, I don’t think enough has happened yet for the ICC to get involved.  Yes, it is the most high profile international justice issue in progress right now and yes, one could say that the annexation of Crimea is a breach of national sovereignty, but there have not been any war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide committed yet.  Second, I think it would be incredibly difficult to get Putin to come out and answer for his crimes with the public threat of international criminal justice.  As we saw in the ICTY, Radovan Karadzic was able to use his national support to go into hiding for years.  I think the same case would be for Putin on a larger scale.  This is certainly a developing issue; the temporary Ukrainian government has already declared that it will not accept Crimea’s secession, so I think we will have to wait and see if the ICC will gain enough leverage to get involved and stop Russia’s expansion.

Ukraine: Split Decisions

Single Ukraine?

The world continues to watch Ukraine as it remains an issue of Russian geographical self-interest.

March 4, President Putin made his first public appearance since ordering and subsequently halting the advance of Russian troops into the contested area. He broke his silence on the political upheaval in Ukraine on Tuesday during a 66-minute news conference that sought to justify Russia’s actions and policies.

Amidst the political crisis in the Ukraine, numerous Western leaders have accused of Moscow of violating international law by deploying unmarked Russian military forces across the autonomous Republic of Crimea. Is Moscow violating international law?

On the other hand, Western leaders, like Obama have been criticized of “wishful thinking.” The Washington Post said “For five years President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality.”

Russia can legally argue its position for sending troops since the interim government in Kiev is not the legitimate government of the Ukraine. Foreign governments that are willfully recognizing and thereby trying to confer international legitimacy on the interim government in Kiev, however, are considered to be breaking international law by violating the sovereignty of the Ukraine constitution.

International law continues to play a difficult and diffuse role. Russia seems to be in the position that they can technically invoke a legal position to instigate a humanitarian intervention, yet Russians’ support for the independence of Crimea could be a violation of the sovereignty of the Ukraine.

The position of the U.S. seems to be in cooperation with the Russia administration while rejecting a Russian-backed effort for a referendum in Crimea to separate from the rest of Ukraine. Is there any common ground of Obama’s “resetting” of U.S. relations without Russia?

What kinds of legal grounds does this referendum have? How would joining Russia lead to more security and leadership crises? Does Ukraine’s current new interim government not recognize the leadership in Crimea? Are you in favor or Crimea reuniting with Russia as a subject of the Russian Federation or in favor of retaining the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine?

The referendum was announced to be set for May 25, but Kiev’s new government has slated the presidential election for that day. The regional Crimean parliament has moved the date for March 16.

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: A Possible Crime of Aggression?

What’s the Situation in Ukraine right now?

Right as the young and fresh new Ukrainian government was scrambling to get themselves together, Russia moved their military into Crimea this past weekend. It was a rapid, unexpected, and non-violent military takeover that caught not just Ukraine but the entire international community by surprise. The Ukrainian government has not authorized military action against the Russians in fear of starting a bloody war.

Putin’s intentions in Ukraine aren’t entirely clear. More modest speculations include wanting to protect the Russians in Crimea from anti-Russian violence , wanting to stabilize a potentially volatile political situation right along Russia’s border. More bold speculation includes Putin wanting to potentially take over Crimea or even all of Ukraine and annex it into Russia. Other former Soviet states have expressed concern that Russia’s aggression might extend to their territories as well. Estonia’s president called for stronger defense in fear of further Russian aggression.

Is This an Act of Aggression?

There has been significant international outcry against Russia’s actions, centered largely around the illegality of such military action under international law. Acts of aggression are defined by amendment of the Rome Statute as the use of armed force carried out by one state against another state without the justification of self-defense or through UN Sanction. By this definition, Russia’s actions can definitely be construed as a crime of aggression.

Can/Will/Should the ICC Step In?

Although the ICC is technically a retroactive court, it has demonstrated since its inception that it has a clear interest in intervention and prevention.  It would not be entirely inconceivable for the ICC to want to prevent mass violence in this case by stepping in under the umbrella of crimes of aggression.

Whether the ICC can is another question entirely, and the answer is a pretty resolute no. Russia and Ukraine are both not party to the Rome Statute, so the prosecutor cannot initiate an investigation. The UN Security Council referral option is out, given that Russia would veto any action on that front. One possible option, should Ukraine really want the intervention of the ICC, is for Ukraine to pull the stunt that the Cote d’Ivoire pulled in 2011, where they invited the ICC to open an investigation and accepted the jurisdiction of the court without being a member state of the Rome treaty. 

But the chances of that occurring are slim to none, particularly in a case where there have been no deaths or mass violence on Russia’s part. The crime of aggression, although clearly defined in the ICC’s jurisdiction, has never actually been acted upon. A good precedent would be the war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, which faced limited international retribution for its potential violation of aggression laws. Even if military action breaks out in Crimea, consequences for aggression are unlikely.

If not the ICC, then Who?

The United Nations is the most obvious international player with an interest in preventing a potential war, but is severely handicapped by Russia’s position on the Security Council. Some articles have speculated that NATO will play one of the biggest roles in standing up to Russia. Although Ukraine is not a part of NATO, NATO has interests in the surrounding Baltic states and Poland, all of which are threatened by Russia’s expansion into Ukraine. The European Court of Human Rights has also been mentioned, although what role it could or would play appears to be ambiguous.  

Without any international regulatory institutions directly involved, it might come down to political and economic pressure to convince Russia to not advance. But that poses its own problems–Russia’s economy is largely dependent on the exportation of natural resources, and sanctions on resources such as gas would severely impact European countries like Germany and France, for whom Russia is the biggest supplier.

Given the rapid developments over the past few days, there is no telling where the situation will go in the next few weeks, and who will end up being pulled into this potential crisis in Eurasia.



Homophobia as a crime against humanity

In a historic move for international law, a US judge ruled in August that a prominent American evangelist can be tried for crimes against humanity due to his advocacy for the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill. Scott Lively has admitted to influencing the Ugandan bill as well as Russia’s more-recent “gay propaganda” law and has argued that homosexuals are to blame for Nazi atrocities. The ruling is new for international law because it defines LGBTQ individuals as a class against which discrimination and unfair treatment is not acceptable.

In his humorous take on global homophobia, Jon Stewart references the seemingly common news of homophobia coming out of Africa. Beyond the Ugandan law, Nigeria recently passed a law that makes most interactions between gay people criminal, a majority of African countries have outlawed homosexuality, and Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, recently went head-to-head with President Obama over the issue (In French, English coverage here).

While Africa’s problems with LGBTQ people haven’t won the region many allies in the West, Sall’s comments reflect a commonly-held belief that acceptance of homosexuality would be an unwelcome Western import. But if, in a few years or decade, acceptance of homosexuality became a new international norm, would leader like Sall in Senegal, Jonathan in Nigeria, and Putin in Russia be at risk of prosecution?

“Russia and China veto UN Resolution on Syria”

Seen here in the article from alJazeera, they describe a reported mass killing that happened the night before China and Russia vetoed the Security Council Resolution on Syria.

“The diplomatic developments come with activists reporting on Saturday that a Syrian army assault on Homs’ neighbourhood had killed more than 200 civilians since Friday night.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited witnesses saying 217 people had been killed in Homs, 138 of them in the Khaldiyeh neighbourhood.”

I found this passage to be particularly resonant with our recent discussion of Srebrenica in class. They later qualify the report by adding that the deaths came during an “assault on the opposition stronghold.” A question I had in response to this report is where the line is drawn according to international law itself and the politics of negotiating international conflicts between what is “too much”? Will 200 deaths of civilians and around 500 injured in one night be enough to ensure that some form of legal action is taken after the immediate conflict is over? Or will it depend entirely on how the conflict is brought to a resolution?

Russia plans to veto Syrian resolution if considered “unacceptable”

As unrest in Syria continues and shows no apparent signs of slowing, the U.N. Security Council has finally decided to meet and come up with a draft resolution to address the crisis and seek to have Syrian President Bashar Assad cede power.  The decision to come together and develop a resolution comes after nearly an 11-month struggle of the Syrian people against the Assad regime and plenty of pressure from Western nations and the Arab League.  However, there are concerns that Russia and China, who have both resisted the push to develop a resolution, will continue to be an obstacle.  “If the text is unacceptable for us we will vote against it, of course.” Russian U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters in Moscow.  The Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Li Baodong voiced their concerns in saying: “China is firmly opposed to the use of force to solve the Syrian problem and resolutely opposes pushing for forced regime change in Syria, as it violates the United Nations Charter and the basic norms guiding the practice of international relations.”  The U.N. Security Council is meeting in a closed session working on a resolution this afternoon, so we’ll have to wait and see if anything meaningful comes out of the session.

What do you think, will Russian and Chinese opposition lead to a neutered resolution?  Or will they just veto whatever happens to be drafted?