By Paul Goble
Prosecutors of the International Criminal Court in the Hague have posted on the website of the court a report that finds Russia guilty of aggression and occupation of Crimea, thus calling things by their proper names and pointing to more problems ahead for Russia and any state that may recognize what Moscow has done.
The report itself is available online at icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/161114-otp-rep-PE_ENG.pdf. Among its conclusions are the following: “the situation on the territory of Crimea and Sevastopol is equivalent to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation,” a conflict that arose when Moscow sent its forces into the Ukrainian peninsula “without the agreement of the government of Ukraine.”
Moreover, the report continues, “the Russian occupation has been accompanied by the harassment and intimidation of the Crimean Tatars, including such measures as the closing of entrance to the territory of Crimea and the limitation of rights of association and freedom of speech.”
As Moscow commentator Igor Yakovenko points out in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Russia is a signatory to but has not ratified the Rome convention which established the International Criminal Case. (ej.ru/?a=note&id=30408). Moscow has announced its intention to leave the Rome statute (publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201611160018).
“As long as Putin has a veto in the UN Security Council,” Yakovenko says, “there is no reason to expect the convention of an International Tribunal on Russian Aggression in Ukraine. But the very fact that the report of the prosecutor not only has been prepared but published ad that millions will read it cannot fail to have an influence on Putin’s band.”
“Imagine,” the commentator says, what would have been the reaction of the Nazi hierarchy if, in the midst of the second world war, they had “read the accusations which would be read out against them at the Nuremberg trials by Robert Jackson or Francois de Menton or Roman Rudenko.”
That would have made an impression on Hitler’s entourage and perhaps those around him would have changed their behavior “in the most miraculous way.”
Putin might have avoided all these problems, Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov says, if he had behaved like the Turks in Cyprus, occupying but not annexing the northern part of the island and engaging in negotiations after that time. “Happily,” however, the Kremlin leader didn’t (ru.krymr.com/a/28119306.html).
Instead, he moved in and annexed the Ukrainian peninsula in the name of defending Russia’s “compatriots” and thus not only violated a fundamental principle of international law but assumed total responsibility for everything that is taking place on the peninsula. Hence, the decision of the Hague prosecutors to go ahead with their report.
Their decision, Portnikov continues, “is not simply a formal conclusion.” It is something that any government will have to take into consideration if it is thinking about “closing its eyes to Crimea and normalizing relations with the Putin regime.”
Normalization itself, of course, is “not excluded.” The US during the Cold War collaborated with Moscow in various ways, but “on geographic maps which were published in America, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were marked as independent states.” And everyone with good sense knew that “sooner or later justice and together international law would be restored.”
The Crimean issue is going to have the same outcome, Portnikov says. The decision of the International Criminal Court in the Hague is “only the first such conclusion. After it will follow other much more serious ones.”