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Lithuania proposes EU justice ministers consider setting up special tribunal

Minister of Justice Evelina Dobrovolska sent an official letter to the Commissioner for Justice of the European Commission, Didier Reynders, and to Ministers of Justice of the EU Member States earlier today. The Lithuanian Minister’s letter urges the Commissioner and her counterparts at the EU level to consider establishing a special tribunal to ensure the dictators of Russia and Belarus, as well as other individuals who planned and are now commanding the forces carrying out a military aggression against Ukraine are subject to international criminal liability. This idea was put forward to the international community last week by the government as well as by the scientific and legal community of Ukraine.

In the words of Minister of Justice Evelina Dobrovolska the International Criminal Court is already in the process of investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity; besides, Ukraine has also appealed to the International Court of Justice for Russia as a state to be held accountable for violations of the UN Genocide Convention. However, there remains an issue of criminal liability for the international crime of aggression, which could be resolved by a special tribunal set up for that purpose

“A Special Tribunal would serve as an effective mechanism in overcoming legal obstacles related to the resolution of the UN Security Council; such a resolution is necessary in order to launch proceedings before the International Criminal Court and carry out national pre-trial investigations under universal jurisdiction. The crime of aggression violates the international community’s fundamental principles of non-use of armed force and respect for the sovereignty and territorial independence of States; this crime, therefore, requires an international response. We are strengthening our international cooperation and striving to use all possible means and legal mechanisms to implement states’ obligations in terms of international law and to ensure Russian and Belarusian regimes are subject to criminal liability,” Ms Dobrovolska said.

The EU Justice and Home Affairs Council took place on 4 March. It was agreed that Member States strongly condemn the unprovoked military invasion into Ukraine by the aggressors and will work to consolidate efforts to bring those guilty to justice. Therefore, according to Ms Dobrovolska, Lithuania invites to open a discussion and is determined to debate with all possible partners and to reach the most effective legal algorithm, also to mobilise colleagues in the European Union.

On 28 February, Lithuania was the first country to make use of a possibility under Article 14 of the Rome Statute by requesting the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russia and Belarus. Recognising the challenges and workload faced by this court, Lithuania has also contributed an additional EUR 100,000 to fund the work of this court.

On 1 March, the Minister of Justice Evelina Dobrovolska addressed the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania requesting it to carry out an assessment of the act of aggression against Ukraine perpetrated by the leaders of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. The Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania provides for liability for the crime of aggression, thus making it possible to prosecute those responsible for it on the basis of the principle of universal jurisdiction and to try them in absentia. The Prosecutor General’s Office informed that a pre-trial investigation had been launched.