Ukraine must ratify the Rome Statute now, says Nobel laureate
The 1998 Rome Statute underpins the work of the International Criminal Court. In an interview the head of the Center for Civil Liberties (Kyiv), Oleksandra Matviichuk, told Radio Liberty
“We hear our international partners criticise us: you have been promoting the idea of a special tribunal to deal with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Yet you have not met your obligations in full and ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. I know how our government responds to these comments. I understand its arguments but as a human rights activist I believe that we must ratify the Rome Statute.”
According to Matviichuk, ratifying the Statute would bring a number of advantages.
“One, it would give Ukraine additional rights that we presently lack: now we only are obliged to cooperate with any investigation. We have ourselves applied for assistance to the International Criminal Court but do not have the rights enjoyed by its other members. Two, membership would provide an enormous incentive to adapt our domestic legislation,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, it will only become more difficult, she believes, to convince the Ukrainian authorities to ratify the Rome Statute.
Ukraine signed the Statute as far back as 20 January 2000 but did not ratify it although that was one of the direct obligations the country undertook when it reached the agreement of Association with the European Union in 2014.
The Rome Statute allows a State to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in particular cases without ratification: it must simply submit the corresponding declaration. For example, Ukraine recognised the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with two declarations submitted by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: that of 17 April 2014 concerning the Maidan cases and that of 8 September 2015 concerning war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on its territory.
At the end of May 2022 Andrei Smirnov, head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, in an interview with Radio Liberty, said that ratification of the Rome Statute by Ukraine had ceased to be relevant. This was because of the probable threat it would pose to Ukraine’s soldiers.
“During wartime, I would postpone ratification of the Rome Statute at least until Ukraine’s victory. This is because special qualified bodies of foreign countries will receive, in accordance with the Statute a pile of declarations by the Aggressor-State about the alleged (let me stress, alleged) crimes committed by our soldiers. That same International Criminal Court will then be obliged to provide an assessment of those events.”
Soon afterwards, Ukraine’s Minister of Justice Denys Malyuska stressed in a commentary on Radio Liberty that it was impossible to ratify the Rome Statute until the war ended. Rapid ratification of the Statute, in his words, “would change hardly anything for us in terms of jurisdiction”, therefore postponing ratification was not critical.
In late March 2022, Ukraine’s lawyers launched a public campaign, calling for the ratification of the Rome Statute. The importance of doing so was also stressed by Human Rights Watch in late April.
To read the original Ukrainian version of this article.