01 July 2024
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Ukraine, the Netherlands and 26 Third States Without Russia Before the ECtHR

The hearing in the case of Ukraine, the Netherlands v Russia lasted four hours and twenty-five minutes. more than double than an “ordinary” Grand Chamber hearing. These four hours and twenty-five minutes are an important milestone in what is undoubtedly one of the most important set of cases in the history of European Convention on Human Rights. They cover more than ten years of Russian activities in Eastern Ukraine, including the open war of aggression since February 2022. The number of third parties involved in the proceedings likewise renders the case extraordinary.

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27 February 2024

The EU’s Eastern Border and Inconvenient Truths

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, alongside with the EU’s confrontation with Russia’s ally Belarus, however, has deeply impacted the securitisation of migration within the EU. Highly politicised conflict-related securitisation narratives have rarely found their way so swiftly into Member States’ domestic migration and asylum laws, leading to open and far-reaching violations of EU and international human rights law. Hardly ever before have ill-defined concepts and indiscriminate assumptions been so broadly accepted and used to shift from an individual-focused approach to blanket measures stigmatising, dehumanising and excluding entire groups. And rarely before have radical changes of this kind received so little criticism - a deeply unsettling and dangerous trend.

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24 February 2024
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The Curious Fate of the False Claim of Genocide

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered another blow to Ukraine’s litigation strategy. The ICJ only confirmed its jurisdiction for considering Ukraine’s narrow claim that it had not committed genocide in Donbas. As we have previously argued, given the expected modest outcome of the case for Ukraine, it would make sense for Ukraine to expand its litigation strategy beyond the false claim of genocide. Ukraine may consider lodging a new lawsuit before the ICJ under the Genocide Convention, alleging that Russia breached the Convention by committing genocide against Ukrainians as a protected national group.

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Accountability for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine

Two years have passed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine – an act of aggression which 141 states of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) condemned as such shortly after. This crime of aggression has brought unimaginable suffering to the people of Ukraine. As this blog will highlight in the following, a reform of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the crime of aggression is necessary and long overdue. The current jurisdictional regime leaves accountability gaps, which have become painfully visible in the past two years. Plausible suggestions for the reform are already out there – it ultimately “all depends on the political will” of the 124 ICC state parties.

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15 February 2024

A Shortcut at the Expense of Justice

On 31 January 2024, the International Court of Justice rendered its judgment on the merits of a case initiated by Ukraine against the Russian Federation in 2017. Ukraine alleged numerous violations by Russia of two treaties: the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. This blog post provides a brief overview of the decision and argues that the Court sidestepped the task of reconstructing what has happened in reality via judicial fact-finding. This approach comes at the expense of several legal errors. The harsh realities of the conflict and, most importantly, the human suffering on the territories of Ukraine occupied by Russia seem far removed from the grandeur of the Peace Palace.

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17 December 2023

The EU’s Faustian Bargain

Twelve years into the EU’s rule of law crisis, this week has demonstrated that EU leaders are still unwilling to confront their own complicity in Orbán’s rise and to do something about it. Is this sad spectacle a price worth paying in exchange for a symbolic gesture of goodwill to Ukraine? That is the wrong question to ask. The right question to ask is this: if the EU continues to treat the rule of law as a bargaining chip and to make promises it won’t keep, for how much longer will our Union remain a club worth joining?

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03 November 2023

Fighting Impunity Through Intermediaries

The 24th of February 2022 lastingly altered Europe’s security architecture. The European Union and its member states have continued to support Ukraine in a multitude of ways, including direct financial assistance, political support in relevant international fora, far-reaching sanctions against Russian citizens and businesses, and massive arms supplies. What has, however, remained ambiguous is within which (legal) framework the EU has provided different means of support towards Ukraine. In other words: what legal principle – that may also be derived from its treaty framework – determined and guided EU support towards Ukraine? This contribution argues that at least certain streams of EU assistance for Ukraine in countering the Russian Federation’s aggression – namely those aimed at ending impunity for international crimes – have been organized within a distinct rule of law context.

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27 September 2023

Wartime Elections as Democratic Backsliding

The topic of the next elections to the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine unexpectedly surfaced in public discourse towards the end of spring this year. Julia Kyrychenko and Olha Ivasiuk’s recent article on Verfassungsblog outlines major legal and practical obstacles to holding wartime elections in Ukraine. In their illuminating analysis, the authors make a strong case against wartime elections, a viewpoint largely shared by civil society. My argument is a bit different. I will argue that (1) wartime parliamentary elections are expressis verbis inconsistent with the Ukrainian Constitution, and (2) wartime elections would undermine the legitimacy of democratic institutions and potentially lead to democratic backsliding.

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25 September 2023
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No Voting Under Fire

Can Ukraine hold elections while it is in the midst of a full-scale invasion by Russia? This question has recently received international attention, including comments from US Senator Lindsey Graham advocating for elections during the war. However, holding elections during the current state of war faces not only factual but also legal obstacles. Genuine democratic elections cannot be conducted under fire from Russian troops.

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28 July 2023

Cluster Munition and International Law

In recent weeks, there has been intense discussion about the delivery of cluster munitions by the United States of America to Ukraine and the subsequent use of these munitions. The use of such ammunition can be an effective military tool, which is why Ukraine has specifically sought the supply of such ammunition from its allies in order to make its defence against Russia’s war of aggression more effective. This blog post sheds light on the international law dimension of the discussion and illustrates the consequences of the delivery of cluster munitions for allied states of Ukraine, which are parties to the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions.

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26 July 2023

Streumunition und Völkerrecht

In den zurückliegenden Wochen ist intensiv über die Lieferung von Streumunition durch die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika an die Ukraine und den nachfolgenden Einsatz dieser Munition diskutiert worden. Der Einsatz solcher Munition kann ein wirksames militärisches Mittel darstellen, weswegen die Ukraine gezielt bei ihren Verbündeten nach der Lieferung solcher Munition nachgesucht hat, um ihre Verteidigung gegen den völkerrechtswidrigen russischen Angriffskrieg effektiver zu gestalten. Es kann aber nach den für eine Abwägung zwischen militärischer Notwendigkeit und Schutzstandards offenen Regeln des humanitären Völkerrechts Situationen geben, in denen Streumunition völkerrechtskonform von Staaten eingesetzt werden darf, die nicht Vertragsparteien des Osloer Abkommens sind. Dies wird insbesondere dann der Fall sein, wenn der Einsatz der Streumunition in einem Kontext erfolgt, bei dem zivile Opfer praktisch ausgeschlossen werden können.

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08 May 2023
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World War 2 Memories in Lithuania and Ukraine

On May 8, 2023, Lithuania and Ukraine, along with other European countries, meet the annual anniversaries of the end of World War 2 in Europe in 1945. Meanwhile, Russia holds a national holiday tomorrow on May 9 to commemorate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, which is the most important holiday in Russia and became a cult practice for uniting Russians after 2000. The anniversary finds Ukraine in the midst of fighting off present-day Russian aggression. Lithuania finds itself worrying about its defense, dealing with memory incidents and among the biggest supporters of Ukraine. Russia, however, finds itself more isolated than ever and scaling back the celebration: According to Moscow because of expected ‘drone strikes’, but more likely due to ‘fear of popular protests.’ This blog entry takes stock of legal measures by two nations to countervail Russia’s decades-long mnemo-political aggressiveness.

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25 April 2023

Investing Immobilized Russian Assets, Monetarizing the Common Foreign and Security Policy

Again, the Commission and EU Member States are talking about new sanctions against Russia. The focus, according to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, should be on tackling sanctions circumvention and loopholes. In a scoop, however, it was also uncovered that the Commission has drawn up a non-paper “on the generation of resources to support Ukraine from immobilized Russian assets”. The idea behind this non-paper is to invest the immobilized assets of the Russian Central Bank in EU Member States’ bonds and bills and use the proceeds to support the reconstruction of Ukraine. The plan, as the non-paper indicates, is fraught with a number of legal and technical issues. These do not only relate to the question of whether or not such an investment of immobilized assets is compatible with international law and EU law, but also to the question of who should undertake and oversee these investments.

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24 February 2023

On the Side of International Law

This Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly resumed its Emergency Special Session on Ukraine, amidst a turbulent week that witnessed US President Biden’s surprise trip to Kyiv, Russian withdrawal from the New START Treaty, and Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi’s visit to Moscow, amongst other things. On Thursday, the Assembly adopted resolution ES-11/6 (draft here) with 141 votes in favor, seven against, 32 abstentions and 13 countries not voting. If the Russian aggression last year was a watershed moment for the United Nations, then the organ to watch these days is the General Assembly, and not the Security Council.

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What can(’t) international criminal justice deliver for Ukraine?

One year ago, Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, committing an act of aggression in violation of the UN Charter. Many more incidents of international crimes followed, adding to an already large number of unaddressed crimes going back to 2014. While investigations are underway, the failures to pursue accountability for international crimes committed by Russia in the past still need to be addressed in this context.

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10 February 2023

Was nutzen Panzer ohne Ziele?

Die Bundesrepublik wird Leopard-2-Kampfpanzer an Kiew liefern, ukrainische Soldaten in Deutschland trainieren sowie Exportgenehmigungen an Partnerländer ausstellen. Während die russische Führung über die angeblich erneute Bedrohung durch deutsche Panzer fabuliert, sind deutsche Entscheidungsträger*innen in erster Linie mit sich selbst zufrieden. In Deutschland nicht diskutiert, jedoch zentral für alle politischen Entscheidungen in diesem Konflikt ist die Frage: Unterstützung wofür?

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03 February 2023

Enteignen für den Wiederaufbau?

Jeden Tag bringt der Krieg in der Ukraine unerträgliches und unvorstellbares menschliches Leid mit sich. Vor diesem Hintergrund fällt es schwer, schon heute einen nüchternen Blick auf die Zeit nach Beendigung der Kampfhandlungen in der Ukraine und einer Zurückdrängung des russischen Aggressors zu werfen. Das allerdings scheint notwendig, um moralisierender Politik notwendige rechtsstaatliche Rationalität entgegenzusetzen. Konkret geht es dabei um die Frage, ob es möglich ist, staatliches und/oder privates russisches Vermögen entschädigungslos zu enteignen, um so den Wiederaufbau der Ukraine zu finanzieren. Diese Überlegung liegt insbesondere der Erkenntnis zugrunde, dass die durch die russische Aggression verursachten Schäden in der Ukraine schon jetzt auf über eine Billion US-Dollar geschätzt werden.

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25 January 2023

Is Criminality a Russian Virtue Worth Cultivating?

On 13 December 2022, the Russian State Duma unanimously approved, in the first reading, the bill on the imposition of Russian criminal law and criminal procedure upon the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia provinces of Ukraine. The Bill flagrantly infringes the Russian Constitution, criminal legislation and international law, essentially transforming the occupied territories of Ukraine into a lawless area. Yet again, the Bill underscores the imperial nature of the Russian war of aggression.

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