The declaration accepts the ICC jurisdiction for crimes allegedly committed in Ukrainian territory from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014, when the former President Viktor Yanukovych reportedly left the country. This declaration would thus not provide the ICC with jurisdiction over the current alarming situation in Crimea.
“This is an essential step to ensure that serious crimes committed in Ukraine do not go unpunished. The individual criminal responsibility for those crimes must be established, regardless of the allegiance of those who have committed them. It is unfortunate that the Ukranian authorities have limited the temporal scope of the declaration leaving outside the situation in Crimea, as the jurisdiction of the ICC could have been important to prevent the commission of serious crimes in that situation” said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.
Ukraine has been in a state of turmoil since November 2013 with serious abuses occurring amidst clashes between protesters and governmental forces. The Ukrainian State’s systematic repression of peaceful protesters involved the commission of numerous grave and systematic abuses, including through torture and enforced disappearances.
While Ukraine is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC, Article 12 of the Statute allows non party States to accept the jurisdiction of the Court through a declaration lodged with the ICC Registrar. “This is an important step for Ukraine in moving forward towards peace and reconciliation. We call on the Ukrainian government to ratify and properly implement the Rome Statute, and in the meantime to widen the temporal scope of the declaration to ensure that the ICC has jurisdiction over the Crimean situation” said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.
The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC may now proceed with a preliminary examination to establish whether there is a “reasonable basis to believe” that war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide have been committed in Ukraine and if those crimes meet the gravity threshold for the ICC to take action. In addition, the OTP would have to evaluate if national authorities are conducting genuine investigations or prosecutions against the same persons and for the same crimes that would be dealt with by the Court, which would render a case inadmissible. Only after such evaluation the OTP could request authorization to the judges to open an investigation.