Tribunal for Putin: is it possible to condemn the current president of the aggressor country
Ukraine calls to prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin, who unleashed a war of aggression. Is it possible, says “Voice of America".
For millennia, heads of state have been legally inviolable. The king made the law, and also had the powers of the head of the judicial executive. That is, only the king himself had the right to punish himself for non-compliance with the law issued by him.
The “principle of sovereign immunity”, which arose in antiquity, is preserved: all heads of state have it. For example, it is impossible to file a lawsuit against the current president of the United States. However, another king could execute a king, and in modern times kings were regularly judged by their own subjects. So the king of England, Scotland and Ireland Charles I, the king of France Louis 16 and the emperor of Mexico Maximilian I were sentenced to death and executed.
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In the XNUMXth century, the situation changed dramatically: now heads of states guilty of unleashing aggressive wars and acts of genocide can be punished by international courts. There are more and more such examples.
World War I
During the First World War, the rulers of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and Bulgaria - Emperors Wilhelm and Franz Joseph, Sultan Mehmet the fifth and Tsar Ferdinand - were considered criminals by world public opinion, although before that wars of conquest were considered the norm. But World War I changed everything. The terrible massacre lasted 4 years, claimed more than 20 million lives, millions became disabled.
“The blame for the disaster and suffering caused by the greatest, most terrible war of all time lies on the shoulders of Wilhelm II, his Junkers and Pan-Germans,” wrote Henry Canfield in The World War in 1919.
Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated and fled Germany to the neutral Netherlands. The leaders of the victorious states discussed the possibility of bringing the former head of the defeated state to justice. Based on the then principles of international law, Wilhelm could have been charged with unleashing a war of aggression, violating Belgian neutrality, being responsible for war crimes committed by German troops, and also starting unrestricted submarine warfare. It is curious that the use of weapons of mass destruction - poison gases - was not considered illegal, because it was not prohibited by international conventions. Article 227 of the Treaty of Versailles read, in part: “The Allied and Associated Powers publicly accuse Wilhelm II of Hohenzollern, former German Emperor, of the greatest crime against international morality and the inviolability of treaties. A special tribunal will be set up to try the accused.” However, not all winners wanted to punish the former head of state. Even supporters of bringing Wilhelm to justice believed that the charge should be political and moral, and not criminal in nature.
“Kings were tried and executed for crimes of disparate severity. We create international law,” said David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister.
The former Kaiser never appeared before the court: almost all European monarchs, as well as the Pope, spoke in his defense. The Netherlands, headed by an influential and strong-willed queen, declared that William had received asylum, and his extradition was contrary to national laws.
World War I may seem like the apotheosis of humanism against the backdrop of World War II, which raged on all continents, was accompanied by unparalleled acts of cruelty and claimed at least 85 million lives.
“The Germans must know that they will be sent back to their crime scenes. They have committed crimes and will be judged on the spot by the nations they have committed violence against. This declaration does not address the issue of the main criminals, whose crimes are not related to a specific geographical location, and who will be punished by a joint decision of the Allied government, ”was written in the Declaration on the responsibility of the Nazis for the atrocities committed, 1943.
After the end of the war, the victors for the first time in history created international tribunals and sent the top leaders of Germany and Japan to the dock. The judges rejected the defense's argument that the accused should be protected by the principle of "sovereign immunity".
At the Nuremberg Trials, 177 high-ranking Nazis and the military were tried. 25 of them were sentenced to death, 20 to life imprisonment. The head of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, committed suicide. But in Nuremberg, they considered the case of his successor, Admiral Karl Doenitz, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Göring, who had long been considered the second man after Hitler in Germany, was sentenced to death, but committed suicide. At the Tokyo trial, where the leaders of Japan were convicted, the head of state, Emperor Hirohito, who certainly bore significant responsibility for the Japanese aggression, was not condemned. The winners felt that this would do more harm than good. 29 senior leaders appeared before the international tribunal: seven of them were sentenced to death, 15 were sent to prison for life. Among those executed were two prime ministers, Koki Hirota and Hideki Tojo, while a third prime minister, Fumimaro Konoe, committed suicide while awaiting arrest.
However, after the end of the Second World War, no such trials were held in Italy. The founder of the fascist regime, Benito Mussolini, was previously executed by partisans. It was only at the very end of the XNUMXth century that international tribunals began to operate again. Appropriate initiatives began to take the UN Security Council.
“All parties must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and, in particular, persons who violate these conventions or order gross violations of them are held personally responsible for such violations.” - UN Security Council Resolution 764, 1992.
The International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia investigated serious crimes and acts of genocide committed during the armed conflicts that arose after the collapse of the unified state. 111 people appeared before the tribunal in The Hague: 90 of them were found guilty. The most famous defendant was former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He was the first head of state to be charged with war crimes against humanity and genocide.
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However, Milosevic died in custody before the end of the trial. The Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj (he was acquitted) and the leaders of the unrecognized entities, in particular, Radovan Karadzic and Milan Babic, the presidents of the Republika Srpska, also appeared before the tribunal. Karadzic was sentenced to life imprisonment, Babic to thirteen years in prison. He committed suicide in prison.
The International Tribunal for Rwanda investigated acts of genocide. The Tribunal brought charges against 93 Rwandan citizens, 61 of whom were found guilty and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
“The genocide in Rwanda was not caused by an outburst of tribal hatred. It was planned by people who wanted to retain power. It was a state-owned company,” wrote philosopher Jonathan Glover.
The former Prime Minister of Rwanda, Jean Kambanda, appeared before the court, who pleaded guilty to six serious crimes, including complicity in acts of genocide and crimes against humanity. Kambanda was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Later, the next step was taken: accusations of grave crimes began to be brought not only to former, but also to current heads of state. This is what happened to Liberian President Charles Taylor. He was charged in 2000 by a special court set up with the participation of the UN for Sierra Leone. After 3 years, Taylor lost power, fled the country, was arrested and handed over to the court. He was found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and sentenced to fifty years in prison.
In 2002, a permanent International Criminal Court began its work, the task of which is "to prosecute persons responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression."
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All current heads of state and government fall under the jurisdiction of the court. The International Criminal Court tried to bring to justice the current heads of Kenya, Kosovo, Sudan and others. For example, in June 2011, the court accused the then ruler of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, of crimes against humanity. The case had to be closed because in October Gaddafi was killed by rebel Libyans.
The issue of the genocide of Ukrainians by Russia was referred to the International Criminal Court. The issue of creating a special international tribunal is also being discussed: this is called for, in particular, by the European Parliament.
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