Civil society urges Ukraine President to sign international crimes law

Photo credit: Center for Civil Liberties (CCL)
Coalition for the ICC

Members of the Coalition for the ICC in Ukraine and around the world are once again calling on Ukrainian authorities to make a commitment to the victims of international crimes by harmonizing its domestic Legislation with International Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law.

On 13 September, Ukrainian civil society organizations called on President Zelenskyy to urgently sign and promulgate the law harmonizing domestic law with international criminal and humanitarian law (“On amendments to certain legislative acts of Ukraine concerning the implementation of provisions of international criminal law and humanitarian law”). 

The Law aims at harmonizing the Criminal Code of Ukraine with international criminal law, paving the way to accountability for perpetrators of grave international crimes, including those committed in Donbas and Crimea, and giving hope for justice to thousands of victims of grave abuses.

Civil society has called for the domestication of the international criminal and humanitarian law in Ukraine, and welcomed the adoption of this Law by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) on 20 May 2021.

Four months after it adoption , the law has yet to be signed and promulgated by the President of Ukraine  in order to enter into force, or it will remain inoperative. 

Under Article 94 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the President should sign the Law within 15 days from its receipt or return it to parliament for reconsideration. In the absence of action by the President in that timeframe, the Law should be considered approved and must be signed and officially promulgated.

“The law is designed to give hope of justice to tens of thousands of people who have already suffered from war crimes and crimes against humanity as a result of Russian aggression, and to prevent new atrocities against ordinary people”, Ukrainian civil society organizations wrote.

On 30 October, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) and the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) also sent letter to the Ukrainian President to express their concerns about this extensive delay, which appears to be contrary to domestic law. 

The organizations note, “At this stage, in the absence of the President’s signature and an appropriate legal framework for prosecuting international crimes, this obligation cannot be adequately discharged by Ukraine.”

The Coalition has called on the country to align Ukraine legislation with international criminal law and international humanitarian law for several years.