German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called Monday for a special tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders, as Moscow faced war crimes accusations over a strike in Ukraine’s Dnipro.

Baerbock called for a “new format” of court to “bring Russian leaders to justice” for their invasion of Ukraine, possibly using Ukrainian law but based abroad with international judges.

“We need to voice a clear message to the Russian leadership here and now that a war of aggression will not go unpunished,” Baerbock said in a speech to the Hague Academy of International Law.

Calls have grown for a way to try to punish Russian leaders for the “top” crime of aggression, as the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot do so under its rules.

The German top diplomat said she had discussed with Ukraine and other allies a “special solution” that could “derive its jurisdiction from Ukrainian criminal law.”

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But she added that it was “important for us to have an international component, for example, a location outside Ukraine, with financial support from partners and with international prosecutors and judges, to underpin the impartiality and legitimacy of this court,” she added.

“That would be a new format.”

The German Foreign Ministry later tweeted that Baerbock wanted to “support Ukraine internationally in setting up a special tribunal for aggression in The Hague.”

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With the US dithering, the implications need to be recognized and decisive action taken to avoid disaster in the shape of a Russian victory in Ukraine.

Baerbock also called for changes to the statute of the Hague-based ICC so it can eventually put the Russian leadership on trial for aggression.

- ‘War crime’ -

The ICC is investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, with its prosecutor Karim Khan describing the country as a “crime scene”.

But under rules adopted in 2018 it cannot prosecute Russia as it is not a member.

The only other way at present is through a UN Security Council resolution, which Russia as a permanent member would veto.

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In November European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen floated the idea of a “specialised court” to put Russian leaders on trial.

Germany’s call for a special court came as EU officials said that Russia’s weekend strike on a residential block in Dnipro, which killed at least 40 people, constitutes a “war crime”.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, whose country holds the EU presidency, condemned the “horrific attack”.

“Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes. Those responsible will be held to account”, he said, speaking at a joint press conference in Stockholm with European Council President Charles Michel.

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also condemned Moscow and said there would be “no impunity”.

“Russia continues to show its inhuman face and applies its brutal missile terror indiscriminately. Such actions constitute war crimes, and must stop immediately,” spokesman Peter Stano told a daily briefing in Brussels.

 

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