Edward Lucas: Without a special tribunal, aggression would be normalised globally

Senior British journalist Edward Lucas backs our #SpecialTribunalNow movement.

Edward Lucas: Without a special tribunal, aggression would be normalised globally

Senior British journalist Edward Lucas was the first person to use the #SpecialTribunalNow hashtag in a viral tweet thread back in May. He now backs our movement born out of it. We republished his thread in full below.

More than 2 million people have signed the Justice 4 Ukraine petition calling for a Special international Tribunal to prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression. I encourage you all to add your name and share it with #SpecialTribunalNow.

A 🧵 on why this matters.

While you read these words, unimaginable horrors continue to unfold for over 40 million men, women, and children in Ukraine - from the Russian bombardment of families in their homes to the widespread killing, rape, torture, and deportation in Russian occupied territory.

These are all crimes. But there is one single crime that enabled them all. Because it was the choice of individuals in Russia to wage this brutal and unprovoked war of aggression against them. Individuals who must face justice for that decision.

The determination to prosecute Nazis didn’t wait until after their defeat. It was during the darkest hours of WW2 in 1942 that allied and occupied governments-in-exile proposed it as the only way of ensuring lasting peace.

That resulted in both the tribunal at Nuremberg and the UN Charter.

The tribunal laid the foundation for international law and established that war of aggression is its supreme crime. The world benefited from the peace and stability it delivered.

Now all that is in jeopardy.

A war of aggression is defined by its character, gravity, and scale in violation of the UN charter. Russia’s war of aggression is unprecedented since WW2 in its stated aim to eradicate a UN member state. We can never normalise this.

Without justice this time too, these horrors never end - not just for Ukraine. Russia’s war is also an attack on the rules-based order that all countries signed up to. Without international law, aggression becomes normalised as a tool of statecraft again.

Russia has repeatedly made it clear that it commits further aggression and further atrocities in the absence of consequences. Without the reinforcement of international law, Russia would be emboldened. So too would future aggressors around the world.

But there is a path to meaningful justice that would close an absurd loophole that currently enables Russia’s leaders to evade justice. It is achievable, it has precedent, and it is gaining momentum with support from around the world.

Russia launched a brutal war of aggression as a “special military operation”. The world can end it through a Special International Tribunal.

The UN General Assembly has the authority to start this process. It has already repeatedly, overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s aggression.

Estonia and the Baltic countries were among the first to support this. President Zelenskyy is in favour. It’s gaining momentum with the support of elder statespeople, rights activists, and legal experts. Ban Ki-moon recently gave an impassioned plea too.

Only a UN-backed tribunal can prosecute Russia’s top leaders. They would have immunity if it was just a “hybrid court”. But a war of aggression is a leadership crime. For justice to be meaningful, the top leaders shouldn’t be allowed to escape it.

Some say starting this process could weaken international law if it results in anything less than Putin going to jail in the near future. Yet international law is already severely damaged. Russia's war of aggression is doing that. To not attempt justice would weaken it further.

Every stage towards justice reduces the damage to international law caused by Russia’s war. Just issuing arrest warrants has consequences and sends a clear message about the sanctity of international law. We see that with the ICC warrants for deporting children from Ukraine.

Hitler never faced trial, but it was the commitment to prosecute him and his accomplices - even when that outcome was very far from certain - that ultimately delivered the death knell to his legacy of aggression. It exposed and rebuked Nazi crimes to Germany and the world.

We all vowed “never again” after the brutal aggression of the Second World War. Now we must mean it.

The path to justice through the UN General Assembly is clear. It just depends on political will. Show them where you stand by signing the petition. #SpecialtribunalNow