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IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis during his visit to Ukraine: The international community must strengthen its influence in bringing war criminals to justice

2022-09-12

On September 6-8, 2022, Executive Director of the International Bar Association (IBA) Mark Ellis was in Ukraine on an official visit.

Dr. Ellis is one of the leading world experts in international law. Mark served as Legal Advisor to the Independent International Commission on Kosovo and was appointed by the OSCE to advise on the creation of Serbia’s War Crimes Tribunal. He was actively involved with the Iraqi High Tribunal and also acted as legal consultant to the defense team of Nuon Chea at the Cambodian War Crimes Tribunal (ECCC). He also assisted in the Hashim Thaci case before the Kosovo Special Chamber (KSC).

In 2013, Dr Ellis was admitted to the List of Assistants to Counsel of the International Criminal Court. In 2015, he was appointed as Chair of the UN created Advisory Panel on Matters Relating to Defence Counsel of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (previously to the ICTY and ICTR).

In addition, it was Executive Director of the IBA who initiated the creation of eyeWitness to Atrocities, a mobile phone application to preserve evidence of war crimes.

Mark Ellis was one of the first to become an international UBA member, expressing support for the Association at this critical time.

As Mark noted, this trip is a special one for him: “As an IBA representative, it is important for me to be here in Ukraine now. I consider it my duty to personally meet with lawyers in Ukraine, in particular, with UBA members.”

As part of Mark’s visit, meetings were held with the Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine for European Integration Valeria Kolomiets and the Chairman of the Supreme Court Vsevolod Knyazev, as well as UBA members, in particular with members of the Association’s Board, Chairs and Committees’ boards.

For the legal community, the Ukrainian Bar Association organized an online interview with Dr. Ellis on September 7 to discuss the creation of a tribunal for Russia and the prosecution of war crimes committed in Ukraine. The event was moderated by UBA Executive Director Inna Liniova.

“The war mobilized Ukraine, and Ukraine inspired the international community. And now everyone works with a single aim: to counter aggression. In the course of this struggle, I see an opportunity for Ukraine to introduce the true rule of law,” Mark remarked.

He said that the international community is ready to help Ukraine in the implementation of justice: “The International Criminal Court, in my opinion, will play the main role in this process. Now its main focus of attention belongs to Ukraine. It is worth noting that the ICC can make a decision on the guilty persons, but its implementation will depend on the international community. And this, of course, complicates the process. Especially with regard to such countries as Russia, which is not a signatory of the Rome Statute. In this case, an important role rests on the international community, which should strengthen its influence in bringing criminals to justice. This process takes quite a long time. However, we have cases in history of bringing high-ranking officials to justice. I hope this will soon happen in relation to Russia as well.”

According to Mark Ellis, the entire international community should be interested in investigating the crime of aggression. For this, it is necessary to create a new mechanism – the Special Tribunal. This is the best option to focus the investigation on Putin himself. But in view of the concept of state immunity, the question arises, do we have the authority to create a Special Tribunal on the fact of aggression, which would have the appropriate legitimacy? Legitimacy, according to Mark, is determined by the involvement of a large number of countries.

“I believe that Europe is the most realistic platform for establishing a tribunal. I would like to emphasize that this will not limit the involvement of other countries in this process, because we are talking about the investigation of an international crime,” added Dr. Ellis.

You can find more about Mark Ellis’s thoughts on the prospects of bringing the top military leadership of Russia to criminal responsibility, the creation of a special tribunal, its possible models, international legal mechanisms for compensation of damages and much more in his interview at the link: UkrainianEnglish.