Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine


Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. (CNN)

British politicians across the political divide have called for a special tribunal to investigate Russia’s “crime of aggression” in Ukraine.   

A statement published on the website of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown Friday proposed “the creation of a special tribunal with a limited focus on the crime of aggression” to complement the investigation being carried out by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine.  

The proposal has gained the support from British politicians including opposition leader Keir Starmer and former Conservative party leader and MP Iain Duncan Smith, according to British newspaper The Observer, which said a copy of the statement was shared with them.

The UN defines 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 ICC is unable to probe a crime of aggression if the alleged act is committed by a state that is not party to the Rome statute which established the court, unless the UN Security Council refers the matter to it.

As Russia has not ratified the Rome statute and would likely “exercise its veto in the Security Council against a referral” the ICC has been left unable to “investigate crimes of aggression against Ukraine,” the statement said.  

During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Brown said that having dealt with Russian President Vladimir Putin while he was in office, he believes that the “only thing” Putin “understands is strength.” 

“One of the strengths that we have is to say this is an international crime. And particularly the crime of aggression,” Brown added.  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for this tribunal to investigate crimes of aggression during an event hosted by the United States Institute of Peace, the Atlantic Council, and the Ukrainian Embassy last month. 

“The crime of aggression is the alpha and omega of the war,” Zelensky stressed during his remarks.  

“To start a criminal and unprovoked war is to open the door to thousands of crimes committed during hostilities and in occupied territory,” the president added.  

UK politicians said the tribunal could take shape in a similar format to the Nuremberg Trials held between 1945 and 1946 which saw Nazi officials tried for plotting and executing invasions of other countries.  

“The Special Tribunal should be constituted – on the same principles that guided the allies in 1941 – to investigate the acts of aggression by Russia, aided by Belarus, in Ukraine and whether they constitute a crime of aggression,” Friday’s statement said.  

“As well as investigating and indicting President Putin, the tribunal could also hold to account the members of Russia, and possibly Belarus’, national security council, as well as the political and military leaders of this manifestly illegal war,” the statement continued.  

The UK is not the first to publicly express support for this kind of tribunal, which was initially proposed by Anglo-French lawyer Philippe Sands in February.  

On November 30, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen outlined in a statement the EU’s proposal to set up a “specialised court, backed by the United Nations, to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression.” 

Von der Leyen expressed the EU’s readiness to “start working with the international community to get the broadest international support possible for this specialised court.”  

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