EU justice chief seeks G7 unity on tribunal for Russia over Ukraine war

The European Union’s top justice official said he hopes to discuss with Group of Seven partners plans to set up a special tribunal to prosecute Russia over the war in Ukraine.

“We’ll continue, maybe during the Japanese presidency (of the G7) to see whether it’s possible to have the same approach about a proposal,” European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said in a recent interview with Kyodo News and ahead of a G7 justice ministers’ meeting in July in Tokyo.

Amid mounting allegations of war crimes against Russia, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in March for President Vladimir Putin over his suspected involvement in the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children.

Putin could be arrested if he visits any ICC member state. But the court needs a referral by the U.N. Security Council to try parties that are not members, such as Russia, and an agreement on such a referral is slim given Russia would likely exercise its veto power as one of the council’s permanent members.

The European Union is looking for an alternative route, Reynders said, by cooperating with the Ukrainian judicial authorities and the ICC to establish a special tribunal, or a hybrid tribunal involving Ukrainian and international judges to hold Russia accountable.

The ICC is also investigating Russia for alleged crimes against humanity or genocide, but the process is expected to take considerable time.

Responding to the ICC arrest warrant, European Union member states have demonstrated varying responses. Germany has said it would arrest Putin if he traveled to the country, but Hungary said it would not.

Reynders has taken note of such differences, but the former Belgian foreign minister said that the 27-member bloc has unanimously agreed on 10 packages of sanctions against Russia and has come together “with the same unanimity” concerning Moscow’s alleged war crimes.

“I will say that from beginning of the war, we have (made) a huge effort to maintain the unity at the European level,” he said.

The G7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union. Their justice ministers will meet on July 7 in Tokyo.

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