Goldsmiths academics lead call for Putin to be tried for war crimes

Vladimir Putin Pic: Pixabay

More than 50 academics, lawyers, NGOs and politicians have signed a letter organised by the law department at Goldsmiths in Lewisham calling on Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes and violation of human rights.

The letter accuses Russia of breaking multiple codes of international law while urging the international community and the United Nations Security Council to act swiftly and unite in prosecuting the Russian Federation via an ad-hoc tribunal.

Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, the head of Goldsmiths Law Department and letter co-author, told Eastlondonlines: “Putin’s blatant disregard for human life, and human dignity, cannot go unanswered.” 

Head of Goldsmiths Department of Law Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos Pic: Richard Gardner

It comes amid last week’s UN vote by 141 countries to condemn the Russian aggression in Ukraine. It reflects the recent International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation against Russia on Crimes against Humanity and War crimes and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) process initiated by Ukraine under the Genocide Convention.

Among the violations accused in the letter is the threat or use of force against any state’s territorial integrity or political independence under Article 2(4) of the UN and criminal aggression under Article 8bis of the (ICC) Rome Statute.

Ukrainian families fleeing their homes Pic: PR Newswire

The letter states: “The public now expect Putin to be brought to a swift and effective trial.”

“The UK, USA and France – the three Permanent Five Members of the Security Council – should play a leading role in this process, putting political pressure on Russia to accept the authority of both the ICJ and ICC for judicial resolution of all these matters.” 

“If Russia refuses, the international legal order should press for an immediate and swift ad hoc justice mechanism to bring Putin, and those around him, to justice.”

The letter also acknowledges past failures by the international legal order recognising Europe’s blame for “not reacting with sufficient strength” and “not being interested enough in strengthening international law”.

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, known for leading the prosecution of former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC are among those who signed the letter.

Sir Geoffrey Nice Pic: Goldsmith, University of London

Other signees of the letter include barristers Jessica Simor QC, Prof Leslie Thomas QC, former Members of the European Parliament Julie Ward and Mary Honeyball, Doughty Street Chambers member Adam Wagner, and many others between staff, visiting professors at the Department of Law at Goldsmiths, and academics from across the UK, that Goldsmiths works with, have also signed the letter.

In a statement to ELL, Sir Geoffrey stressed the need of the international legal bodies (the ICC and the ICJ) to act decisively and timely in favour of the greater good and not to “be put off by technicalities.” ”This is a case for swift justice,” he added.

“Putin’s atrocity has the public baying not for blood but for international justice. […] Russia’s veto on the Security Council – technically devoted to maintaining peace – is absurd. It may stand in the way of having Putin tried for this clear war of aggression, and that would be like having had Hitler, Goering and Ribbentrop holding a veto with which to block the Nuremberg trials after WWII, ” the lawyer said. 

Giannoulopoulos stressed the importance of a collective response: “The international legal order is under threat, it’s the end of international law as we know it, some commentators argue […]. But they may be underestimating the power of international law to articulate, for a global audience, and with unique strength, who is on the right side of history, and who isn’t.”

“At a time that Putin’s propaganda machine is spreading fake news worldwide, including through formal channels such as Russian Embassies based in western democracies.”

“Ensuring that the international legal order holds Russia, and Putin, to account […] could not be more urgently needed.” 

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