By Niklas Jakobsson
On 8 September, Ukraine finally submitted its long awaited document extending additional jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court. After passing a resolution in its national assembly back in February, speculation has been running high ever since as to when they’d take the plunge. Now we finally got the answer.
By filing, what is known as, an Article 12(3) declaration, Ukraine retroactively accepts the jurisdiction of the Court. “Ukraine’s decision to expand its acceptance of ICC jurisdiction is a clear signal of its commitment to accountability for grave crimes and an important step towards ending impunity”, said Kirsten Meersschaert, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court’s regional coordinator for Europe.
Social media quickly flooded with images of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, handing over the signed documents to ICC Registrar Herman von Hebel. The document goes on to state that jurisdiction to the Court will be granted from the 20 February 2014 for an ‘indefinite duration’. However, Meersschaert believes that Ukraine needs to follow through with their commitment to the Court and become a state party.
“While this latest declaration is a welcome development, it must now be followed by concrete steps towards ratification of the Rome Statute to ensure Ukraine becomes a fully-fledged ICC member state.”
Roman Romanov, the director of the International Renaissance Foundation, Ukraine, also commented on the move.
”Ukraine has taken a crucial step towards ending violence and armed conflict in the east of the country. Victims now have an opportunity to access justice for the heinous crimes they have suffered.”
Social media not only filled with images, but the mandatory speculation that comes with every major development related to the ICC.
The last time a country filed an article 12(3) declaration to the Court was in the early days of 2015, when Palestine decided to grant jurisdiction to the Court. However, Palestine followed through by also ratifying the Rome Statute to become a full States Party. As it stands now, the Court has yet to receive a ratification of the Rome Statute from Ukraine – if they ever will.
Ukraine currently has one situation under preliminary examination with the Court. Through a previous declaration, Ukraine gave a limited amount of jurisdiction to the ICC, following alleged criminal acts by its former president. Looking at the history of the Court, it is likely that a new and separate preliminary examination will start. “The Office of the Prosecutor has said that it opens a preliminary examination as a ‘matter of policy’ following the receipt of Article 12(3) declarations, so we expect the preliminary examination to be expanded to cover any alleged acts committed from 20 February 2014,” said Kirsten Meersschaert.
Last but not least, the acceptance of jurisdiction could mean trouble for Russia. Back in February 2015, when Ukraine passed its national resolution, it clearly indicated this was a move to get accountability for alleged Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The declaration by Ukraine highlights that “Ukraine will cooperate with the Court without delay or exception.” However, as was pointed out on social media, one-sided cooperation can have its disadvantages.
It is worth keeping in mind that the ICC is a court of procedure and processes, many of which take a considerable amount of time. Regardless of whether the prosecution opens up a preliminary examination, it will most likely be a long time before we see any real developments related to this declaration.
Osvaldo Gutierrez Gomez is a cartoonist who works for Cartoon Movement.