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International Criminal Court: Putin’s accomplices will also have to answer for their crimes

On 28 February, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced the opening of an investigation into crimes committed in Ukraine. In addition, 39 countries have asked the Court to investigate the Ukrainian situation. Everyone understands that Vladimir Putin may be called to account before the Court. But all those who are complicit in his actions, by action or omission, all those who arm him or finance his actions, must know that they too can be brought to justice and end their lives in prison if their complicity is proven.

Since the beginning of the war, we have seen videos of the most serious abuses committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. The entire chain of command, from the soldier to the Russian leadership, must be aware that both Ukrainians and the international community will hold them to account.


The aggression suffered by Ukraine is in itself a violation of international law, which prohibits the use and threat of force between sovereign states. But the actions of Russian forces, whether regular or irregular (the Wagner mercenaries come to mind) are also subject to the law of armed conflict.

Prohibited by international custom and several international instruments such as Article 8 of the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC), war crimes refer to the violation of several prohibitions. These include grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out in a widespread and arbitrary manner, violations of the rights of prisoners of war, willful attacks on the civilian population, attacking or bombarding towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are not defended and which are not military objectives, or destroying, looting or seizing the property of the enemy.


All those who finance him or sell him weapons…

If such crimes were committed, it would not only be the Russian President – who would not be able to invoke his immunities before international courts – who would be targeted. Of course, the perpetrators, such as the soldiers, who are guilty of these crimes can be tried. But the same applies to members of the Russian government involved in military decisions, to members of the military chain of command, to all persons exercising control over military and paramilitary forces, and to civilian officials. Finally, any person who knowingly gives aid or substantial assistance to the commission of a war crime can be prosecuted. This is the case of persons who help to carry out these crimes and who could be judged as accomplices (see the Eyad Al-Gharib case in Germany, in 2021), but also of companies and financiers who participate indirectly, through the provision of funds or the sale of equipment used to commit crimes. The indictment of Nexa Technologies in France for allegedly selling equipment to President Al-Sissi’s regime in Egypt, and the prosecution of Lundin Energy in Sweden for complicity in war crimes in Sudan are examples of this: no financier of the Russian army and regime, no company will be immune from prosecution if their responsibility for war crimes that may be committed is established.


Beyond possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, we urge all combatants and parties to the conflict to respect all international humanitarian law.

Although neither Ukraine nor Russia is a party to the Rome Statute that creates the International Criminal Court, the Ukrainian declaration filed on 8 September 2015 recognising the Court’s jurisdiction allows the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate any act of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine since 20 February 2014. An international trial is therefore possible, and the ICC Prosecutor announced on 28 February the opening of an investigation that will include crimes committed during the ongoing conflict.

All European states can decide to exercise their universal jurisdiction

However, according to the principle of complementarity, it is first and foremost the national courts that will have to decide whether to try those responsible for these crimes. In this respect, European states can act without delay to hold all Russian and Belarusian leaders accountable and press them to stop the war immediately. In the name of universal jurisdiction, all states can prosecute any war criminals and accomplices on their territory and request their extradition if they are in a third country. Using this jurisdiction, Sweden, Germany and France are already prosecuting perpetrators and accomplices of crimes committed in Syria or in other international crime theatres, as shown by the cases of Mouhannad Droubi (Sweden, 2016), Haisam Omar Sakhanh (Sweden, 2017) or Anwar Raslan (Germany, 2022), amongst others.


In order to break the chains of command, supply and financing, we solemnly call on European states to exercise their universal jurisdiction and commit to exercising it for the crimes committed in Ukraine, like the German judiciary system announced on 8th March 2022 concerning war crimes. War criminals and their accomplices must know that there will be no respite for as long as they live: there is no statute of limitations for war crimes. Even if arrested only 30 years from now, a military officer, arms dealer or financier who is now an actor or accomplice in these crimes can appear before these courts and end his or her life in prison if found guilty.

First signatories:

Marek BELKA, Former Prime Minister of Poland, Member of the European Parliament (S&D),
Andrius KUBILIUS, Former Prime Minister of Lithuania, Member of the European Parliament (EPP),
Guy VERHOFSTADT, Former Prime Minister of Belgium, Member of the European Parliament (Renew Europe),
Jerzy BUZEK, Former Prime Minister of Poland, Member of the European Parliament (EPP),
Włodzimierz CIMOSZEWICZ, Former Prime Minister of Poland, Member of the European Parliament (S&D),
Iratxe GARCÍA PÉREZ, President of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament (Spain),
Pierre LARROUTUROU, Member of the European Parliament (France, S&D),
Domènec RUIZ DEVESA, Member of the European Parliament (Spain, S&D),
Maria ARENA, Member of the European Parliament (Belgium, S&D),
Tonino PICULA, Member of the European Parliament (Croatia, S&D),
Benoît LUTGEN, Member of the European Parliament (Belgium, EPP),
Marc ANGEL, Member of the European Parliament (Luxembourg, S&D),
Andrus ANSIP, Member of the European Parliament (Estonia, Renew Europe),
Fabio Massimo CASTALDO, Member of the European Parliament (Italy, N-A),
Eero HEINÄLUOMA,Member of the European Parliament (Finland, S&D),
Robert BIEDROŃ, Member of the European Parliament (Poland, S&D),
Radan KANEV, Member of the European Parliament(Bulgaria, EPP),
Tanja FAJON, Member of the European Parliament (Slovenia, S&D),
Krzysztof HETMAN, Member of the European Parliament (Poland, EPP),
Klara DOBREV, Member of the European Parliament (Hungary, S&D),
Petras AUSTREVICIUS, Member of the European Parliament (Lithuania, Renew Europe),
Nils UŠAKOVS, Member of the European Parliament (Latvia, S&D)
Magdalena ADAMOWICZ, Member of the European Parliament (Poland, EPP),
Yannick JADOT, Member of the European Parliament (France, Greens/EFA),
Niels FUGLSANG, Member of the European Parliament (Denmark, S&D),
Eugen JURZYCA, Member of the European Parliament (Slovakia, CRE),
Łukasz KOHUT, Member of the European Parliament (Poland, S&D),
Bart GROOTHUIS, Member of the European Parliament (Netherlands, Renew Europe),
Aušra MALDEIKIENĖ, Member of the European Parliament (Lithuania, EPP),
Eugen TOMAC, Member of the European Parliament (Romania, EPP),
Ivan ŠTEFANEC, Member of the European Parliament (Slovakia, EPP),
Raphaël GLUCKSMANN, Member of the European Parliament (France, S&D),
Gabriele BISCHOFF, Member of the European Parliament (Germany, S&D),
Frédérique RIES, Member of the European Parliament (Belgium, Renew Europe),
Martin HOJSÍK, Member of the European Parliament (Slovakia, Renew Europe),
Michal ŠIMEČKA, Member of the European Parliament (Slovakia, Renew Europe),
Michal WIEZIK, Member of the European Parliament (Slovakia, Renew Europe),
Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS, Member of the European Parliament (Greece, Left),
Nicolae ŞTEFĂNUȚĂ, Member of the European Parliament (Romania, Renew Europe),
Malin BJÖRK, Member of the European Parliament (Sweden, Left),
Sylvie GUILLAUME, députée européenne (France, S&D),
Mounir SATOURI, Member of the European Parliament (France, Greens/EFA),
Alviina ALAMETSÄ, Member of the European Parliament (Finland, Greens/EFA),
Dace MELBĀRDE, Member of the European Parliament (Latvia, ECR),
Jan-Christoph OETJEN, Member of the European Parliament (Germany, Renew Europe)
Isabel SANTOS, Member of the European Parliament (Portugal, S&D),
Juozas OLEKAS, Member of the European Parliament (Lithuania, S&D),
Riho TERRAS, Member of the European Parliament (Estonia, EPP),
Paul MAGNETTE, Chair of the Belgian Socialist Party,
Borys TARASYUK, Permanent Representation of Ukraine to the Council of Europe,
Yelyzaveta YASKO, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament,
Anne-Laure CHAUMETTE, Associate Professor in international criminal law, University of Paris Nanterre,
Raphaël MAUREL, Associate Professor in International Law, University of Burgundy,
Clémentine BORIES, Professor in International Law at the Toulouse Capitole University,
Laurence BURGORGUE-LARSEN, Professor in International Law at the Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne University,
Sarah CASSELLA, Professor in International Law at Le Mans University,
Julien CAZALA, Professor in International Law at the Sorbonne Paris Nord University,
Michel COSNARD, Professor in International Law at the Cergy Paris University,
Arnaud DE NANTEUIL, Professor in International Law at the Paris Est-Créteil University,
Philippe LAGRANGE, Professor in International Law at the University of Poitiers,
Valère NDIOR, Professor in International Law at the University of Western Brittany,
Alain PELLET, Emeritus Professor of International Law at the University of Paris Nanterre, President of the Institute of International Law, Former member and Chairperson of the International Law Commission,
Hélène RASPAIL, Associate Professor in International Law at Le Mans University,
Denys-Sacha ROBIN, Associate Professor in International Law at Paris Nanterre University,
Bérangère TAXIL, Professor in International Law at the University of Angers,


Haute cours régionale de Coblence

“Toute personne qui apporterait consciemment son concours ou une assistance substentielle à la commission d’un crime de guerre pourra être poursuivie” Allemagne, 24 février 2021 : Affaire Eyad Al-Gharib.