EU called to set up war crimes tribunal to hold Russian regime to account

Busy day in Brussels as MEPs support raft of resolutions for war crimes tribunal, new EU candidates, and trade liberalisation for Ukraine

Shocking images of slaughtered civilians in the town of Bucha have been shared on social media by the Ukrainian foreign minister as he called for tougher sanctions against Russia
Shocking images of slaughtered civilians in the town of Bucha have been shared on social media by the Ukrainian foreign minister as he called for tougher sanctions against Russia

It was a busy day in Brussels for MEPs who endorsed a raft of proposals and resolutions concerning Ukraine, sanctions against Belarus for its support of the Russian invasion, and liberalisation of duties for the country under attack.

Chiefly, MEPs have now called for a special international tribunal to investigate Russian leaders and military commanders and their allies for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.

The resolution was adopted Thursday, with MEPs demanding all necessary action to be taken by the EU in international proceedings and courts to support the prosecution of the Russian and Belarussian regimes and army personnel for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression.

The resolution on the fight against impunity for war crimes in Ukraine was adopted by show of hands.

The EU was asked to create a special international tribunal to punish the crime of aggression committed against Ukraine, because the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction, to hold Russian political leaders and military commanders and those of its allies to account.

Reported atrocities such as indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, forced deportations, use of banned ammunition, attacks against civilians fleeing via pre-agreed humanitarian corridors, executions and sexual violence amount to violations of international humanitarian law. MEPs said these may qualify as war crimes.

Eurojust investigation

MEPs green-lit new rules that will allow Eurojust to safely store and analyse evidence related to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The mandate of Eurojust, the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, was extended with 560 votes in favour of new powers allowing the storage of evidence related to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. This evidence could consist of DNA profiles, fingerprints, photographs, videos and audio recordings.

Under the new rules, Eurojust could also process data related to these types of crimes, and share the data with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other international organisations, as well as EU member state authorities.

Eurojust-supported joint EU investigation team has been active in Ukraine since March 2022.

Trade liberalisation for Ukraine

MEPs backed a one-year suspension of EU import duties on all Ukrainian exports, to support the country’s economy.

Endorsed by 5151 votes in favour, the move is a response to the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which is hampering the country’s ability to trade.

The measures will remove import duties on industrial products, entry duties on fruit and vegetables, as well as anti-dumping duties and safeguard measures on steel imports for a period of one year.

“In the face of Russian aggression, Ukraine is fighting not only for its own freedom and security, but for that of all of Europe. Therefore, we must support Ukraine at all levels with every tool at our disposal: not only with weapons and sanctions but with our trading power, too. Giving Ukraine the support it needs to defend itself does not end on the battlefield; it includes ensuring that Ukraine’s economy remains resilient and competitive,” standing rapporteur for Ukraine Sandra Kalniete (EPP, LV).

The EU is Ukraine’s most important trading partner, accounting for more than 40% of its total trade in goods in 2021. In return, Ukraine has been the EU’s 15th largest trading partner, representing around 1.2% of overall EU trade.

Sanctions against Belarus

MEPs also supported a mirroring of Russian sanctions against the Belarusian regime of dictator Aleksander Lukashenko.

Belarus has allowed Russian troops and weapons to move through its territory, use its airspace, refuel and store military ammunition.

MEPs said the Belarusian regime was jointly responsible for the attack, bearing all the legal consequences in international law. The resolution also calls for an investigation into the crimes committed by Lukashenko’s regime against the Belarusian people.

Candidate status for Moldova

Against the backdrop of Russia’s war against Ukraine, MEPs also called on the EU to provide more strategic support to Moldova following its application for EU membership.

With 512 votes in favour, Moldova’s official application on 3 March to join the European Union was welcomed by MEPs.

They called on the EU institutions to grant EU candidate status to Moldova, along with Ukraine and Georgia, in line with Article 49 TEU and ‘on the basis of merit’. In the meantime, the European

“The European Union must urgently grant the status of candidate country to the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. This is a message with three possible recipients. It is a message to the world that the European Union supports those with whom we share the same values in a concrete, tangible and committed manner,” said rapporteur Dragoș Tudorache (Renew, Romania).

“It is a message to Putin, and to all the dictators in the world, that we will remain united in the face of any aggression and will only grow stronger by such actions. Above all, it is also a message to the citizens of Moldova, to those who have chosen a European path, that Europe sees them, hears them and will not abandon them.”

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