Oikeusvaltio koetuksella – pohjoismaisten pääsihteerien kannanotto Ukrainan tilanteeseen

11.3.2022 | Tiedotteet

Pohjoismaiset pääsihteerit ottavat yhdessä kantaa Ukrainan tilanteeseen ja muistuttavat kansainvälisen oikeuden merkityksestä.

The Rule of Law is now put to the test – the invasion of Ukraine must be tried in court

Not far from our Scandinavian borders, armed attacks – ruthlessly against civilians – take place, violating of the principles of international law. People are fleeing for their lives. People die innocently because one country has illegally invaded another.

As representatives of the Nordic bar associations, we condemn, in the strongest possible terms, Russia’s attack on Ukraine – a young democracy, now in danger of being crushed.

As lawyers, we must do everything in our power to pave the way for the rule of law – even when it comes to an ongoing war. That is our best weapon. Therefore, a way forward, in order to put an end to human suffering, is to prosecute those responsible for the war in a legally secure manner – and this has to be done as quickly as possible.

The international institutions existing today must prosecute the responsible ones according to the rule of law. Here, the International Criminal Court, ICC, is a crucial player. The International Court of Justice, ICJ, is also of importance, and Ukraine has already submitted an application hoping to stop the invasion.

Let us look at the matter in a larger context. From a legal perspective, the situation is better today than it was a hundred years ago. Back then, war was not something obviously forbidden. Through the formation of the League of Nations and its successor, the UN, the ban on violence between countries has become something of a cornerstone internationally. The crime of aggression has also become part of international law. The UN Charter of 1945 states that all members of international relations must refrain from threatening or using force against any other state. In 2018, the International Criminal Court, ICC, was given jurisdiction to rule on the crime of aggression after a number of Member States supported the amendment to the Rome Statute. It refers to an act of aggression as ”the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations”.

The fact that the crime of aggression has been introduced in several countries for a few years now is clearly not a guarantee for peace. The situation in Europe is worse than it may have been since World War II. Nevertheless, it is positive that today we have international rules according to which countries and their representatives can be held accountable. If you commit war crimes, legal consequences can be the response. The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor has recently announced that an investigation has been launched concerning whether war crimes have been committed in Ukraine, and meanwhile the gathering of evidence has begun. The ICJ will decide whether Putin’s allegations of genocide in Ukraine, as a reason for the invasion, are unfounded. It inspires hope.

The bar associations in the Nordic countries have condemned the Russian invasion and taken various measures that hopefully can contribute in some ways.

For the time being, solidarity means everything to the country that has been invaded. It is worth recalling that the UN Charter, signed after World War II, states that the people of the United Nations are determined to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind ” and to “unite our strength to maintain international peace and security”.

But at this point, elegant phrases will not do. It can be stated that we must never take our democracy for granted. But what does that mean outright? Well, we must remind ourselves that our international agreements on human rights are there to guarantee peace and that they must be followed. If not, accountability is to be expected. As lawyers we must do everything we can to remind the world of the rule of law. Thus, it is us lawyers that have to be at the forefront promoting the principles of the rule of law internationally.

Mia Edwall Insulander, Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association
Andrew Hjuler Crichton, Secretary General of the Danish Bar and Law Society
Ingimar Ingason, Secretary General of the Islandic Bar Association
Niko Jakobsson, Secretary General of the Finnish Bar Association
Merete Smith, Secretary General of the Norwegian Bar Association