Week 3: To Rebuild a Judiciary & To Ensure Accountability

This week, I dove deep into justice sector reform and the judicial reconstitution of Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, and Serbia. I’ve been looking both at what immediate steps were taken to build a transitional legal system capable of providing accountability for war crimes and what reforms are still ongoing (in some states, thirty years later). These countries are good examples for Ukraine because they share or shared in Ukraine’s aspirations to join the EU. So, similarly it’s been important to understand what standards and best practices in judicial reconstruction and reform are put forth by EU bodies. 

Another aspect to the initiative of securing peace in Ukraine includes the challenge of how to prosecute Russia for the crime of aggression. This is an ongoing and highly politicized international conversation, with each potential mechanism for accountability coming with complex challenges or potential drawbacks.

Although the International Criminal Court has the ability to prosecute the crime of aggression, it cannot do so in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine because Russia has not yet accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction. So, another mechanism for accountability is necessary to ensure Russia is brought to justice for its atrocity crimes (including the crime of aggression) against Ukraine. The possible forums for accountability could include the Ukrainian criminal courts (including any hybrid internationalized Ukrainian court on the crime of aggression), the International Criminal Court, foreign national courts under universal jurisdiction (some 14 countries have launched investigations), a multilateral court created by a group of nations, and some special court such as the international Special Tribunal for Ukraine on the Crime of Aggression proposed by the Ukrainian Government.

Additionally, this week I got a second research assignment which will support a strategy report on how Ukraine can include accountability in its peace negotiations with Russia. For this, I will be providing research on the ongoing forced transfers of Ukrainian children to Russian territory, the nature of the war’s prisoner swaps, the state of war crime prosecutions in Ukraine’s national courts, international and national providers of legal assistance to Ukraine, and how Russia, particularly under Putin, has negotiated peace agreements or may negotiate with Ukraine in this context. My research will all go towards the author’s objective of providing a clear narrative of the Russia-Ukraine situation to the international stakeholders and foreign governments (likely the U.S. and Ukraine) that will likely be interested in such a strategy proposal.

On a lighter note—I’ve been getting to know the city more and more. From my first Nationals game to the Smithsonians, monuments, and outdoor marketplaces, I’ve been loving my time here so far!