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on the Special International Tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine

A day-long event that will bring together a diverse group of influential individuals, including UK politicians, legal experts and key diplomats, to discuss the approach to establishing a Special International Tribunal.

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1 February 2024

09:00 - 17:00




On 24 February 2022 Russia, aided by Belarus, continued its devastating military offensive in Ukraine. The war there continues unabated. The invasion, occupation, bombardment, and attacks on Ukraine, among other aggressive acts, are some of the most devastating and widespread in Europe since the Second World War. In February 2022, Ukraine and its partners urgently called for the prosecution of Russian and Belarussian leaders, among them President Vladimir Putin, for the crime of aggression.

That call, almost two years on, is now supported by a “Core Group” of 40 states who have been in talks on creating a Special Tribunal to try senior leaders for this crime. The Netherlands have offered to host such a tribunal.

The key challenge, still unresolved, is the model that governments can, and should, support. The choice being presented is between a strictly international tribunal or a largely domestic hybrid (“internationalized”) model.

There is concern, now emanating from a large part of the Core Group countries, that a hybrid model, which would essentially be a Ukrainian domestic court in The Hague, is not workable because it would:

  • postpone and possibly deny altogether the prospects of accountability for President Putin, President Lukashenko, Sergey Lavrov, and other senior leaders, as they would enjoy personal immunities before a domesticated hybrid tribunal;

  • delay the establishment of the tribunal for several years because of constitutional changes required in Ukraine once martial law ends;

  • deny Ukraine international legitimacy in its anti-imperial struggle against Russian colonial domination.

On 20 January 2023, the UK backed the idea of a Special Tribunal and tentatively suggested one possible model was a ‘hybrid model’. On 9 May 2023, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the FCDO (Rt Hon’ David Rutley) stated, before a cross-party selection of senior MPs at Westminster Hall, that the Government had not formed a definitive view and that all options were on the table.

Initial backing by some States for a largely domestic, hybrid tribunal was formulated on two premises:

  • That it would diminish its precedent value and preserve the idea that only the UN Security Council (UNSC) is authorised to create international courts or tribunals.

  • This is not the case as the International Criminal Court (ICC) itself is a treaty-based organisation created outside the auspices of the UNSC, and other successful international tribunals have been created upon recommendation by the UN General Assembly or under Chapter 6 of the UN Charter rather than by the UNSC under Chapter 7 or under the auspices of regional organisations such as the African Union or European Union.

  • That a future tribunal will preserve personal immunities for serving heads of state, heads of government and foreign ministers.

  • This belief stems from an erroneous belief that only the UNSC can disapply personal immunities. We know that is not the case given the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, the ICC, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone that immunities can and should be dis-applied for atrocity crimes being tried before an international court or tribunal.

We see clear merit for a strictly international tribunal or a highly internationalised tribunal, of some form, having key international features: an international agreement and statute (with the UN Secretary General and/or through multi-lateral treaty); reference to international law for the purposes of jurisdiction and applicable law; significant international components (such as prosecutors, judges, and venue); and firm international backing, where possible, from international and/or regional organisations.

We believe this would the best hope of disapplying relevant immunities and giving a tribunal full legitimacy and complement the ongoing work of the ICC (in investigating alleged acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of Ukraine).

Several States’ position on this remains unclear and there is a deadlock in discussions among them. As such, States should clearly highlight whether they distance themselves from the hybrid model, whether they endorse a strictly international model, or propose a workable third alternative.


We call on international lawyers and experts to continue exploring how the future tribunal will be able to overcome the immunities of the "Troika": the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Russia and try them for the crime of aggression being committed against Ukraine.

A strictly international tribunal, or a workable highly-internationalised third model, would signal the disregard in which aggressor states are held by the international community, it would ensure an independent and impartial tribunal, it would encourage other regions to join the effort, and it would genuinely signal a long-term commitment to Ukraine's and its neighbours call to be free of imperial conquest.

Given its global influence and historic leadership on human rights issues, the UK could play a vital role in further galvanising international backing for the proposal.


  • Aarif Abraham, Barrister, Doughty Street International; Director, Accountability Unit;

  • Lord Alton of Liverpool, Crossbench Peer; Member Joint (Parliamentary) Select Committee on Human Rights;

  • Kateryna Busol, Ukrainian lawyer, Associate Professor, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy;

  • Toby Cadman, Co-founder of The Guernica Group and Joint Head of Chambers at Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers;

  • Irwin Cotler, former Attorney General of Canada and International Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights;

  • Prof. David M. Crane (SES, ret.), Founding Chief Prosecutor, UN Special Court for Sierra Leone;

  • Dr. jur. Terje Einarsen, LL.M Harvard, Professor of International Law, University of Bergen, Associate Researcher SOAS, University of London, Chairperson of International Commission of Jurists Norway;

  • Francis FitzGibbon KC, Barrister specialising in criminal law

  • Richard Foord MP, Member of Parliament for Tiverton and Honiton, Liberal Democrats Defense Spokesperson;

  • Antoine Garapon, Retired judge, France;

  • Justice Richard J Goldstone, Constitutional Court of South Africa (Retired), former Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda;

  • Dr. Gabija Grigaitė Daugirdė, Deputy minister of justice of the Republic of Lithuania, lecturer at Law faculty of Vilnius university;

  • Professor Steven Haines, Professor of Public International Law, University of Greenwich.

  • Professor Dr Stephan Hobe, Cologne University;

  • Rt. Hon. Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, Director, International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute; Barrister and Member of the House of Lords;

  • Dr. Anton Korynevych, Ambasador-at-large of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 

  • Dr. Patryk I. Labuda, Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Law Studies; 

  • Denys Maliuska, Minister of Justice of Ukraine;

  • Oleksandra Matviichuk, Head of the Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine); Awarded The Nobel Peace Prize 2022;

  • Jason McCue, Senior Partner of McCue Jury & Partners LLP;

  • Dr. Carrie McDougall, Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne;

  • Ibrahim Olabi, Chief Legal Counsel, The Reckoning Project;

  • Flora Page, Barrister, 23ES, Board Member of the Legal Services Board

  • Mathilde Philip-Gay, Professor of Law at Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University, Lyon Chair in Human and Environmental Rights;

  • Kevin Saunders, Barrister specialising in Criminal and Regulatory law;

  • Jack Sproson, Barrister, Guernica 37 Chambers. 

  • Professor Jennifer Trahan, NYU Center for Global Affairs, Convenor, The Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression;

  • Rt. Hon. Baroness Whitaker - Member of the House of Lords;

  • Justice Mark L. Wolf, Senior U.S. District Judge, Chair of Integrity Initiatives International;

  • Oksana Zolotarova, Director General of the International Law Department of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Live streaming

To watch the conference online, please click the button
(will be active on a day of the conference)


 08:45 - 09:30 

Registration and coffee

 09:30 - 10:00 

Opening keynote address

 10:00 - 11:00 

Panel Session #1

The history of special tribunals – “The Accountability Gap”

  • (Chair) Professor Dapo Akande, Chichele Professor of Public International Law, Co-Director, Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law & Armed Conflict, University of Oxford 

  • Stephen Doughty MP, Shadow Minister for Europe and North America 

  • Justice Richard Goldstone, First Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda 

  • Alison MacDonald KC, Barrister and leading expert in public international law 

  • Anton Korynevych, Ambassador-at-large of the Ukrainian MFA

 11:00 - 11:30 

Coffee break 

 11:30 - 12:30 

Panel Session #2

Potential models for the Special Tribunal for Ukraine

  • (Chair) Jorg Polakiewicz, Director of the Directorate of Legal Advice and Public International Law, Council of Europe 

  • Frank Hoffmeister, Director, Head of the Legal Department, European External Action Service 

  • Richard Hermer KC, Barrister and leading expert in public international law 

  • Gemma Doyle, Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting 

  • Oksana Zolotarova, Director General of the International Law Department of the Ukrainian MFA

 12:30 - 13:30 

Lunch break 

 13:30 - 15:00 

Reflections on the Special Tribunal for Ukraine

  • Professor Philippe Sands, Writer and Professor of Law at University College London, barrister at 11 KBW and author of ‘East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity’ 

 14:00 - 15:00 

 15:00 - 15:30 

Panel Session #3

Investigations and evidence – challenges in building a prosecution

  • (Chair) Aarif Abraham, Barrister and leading expert in public international law 

  • Dr Mark Ellis, Chair of the International Bar Association 

  • Jason McCue, Senior Partner of McCue Jury and Partners LLP 

  • Toby Cadman, Co-founder of The Guernica Group and Joint Head of Chambers at Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers 

  • Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine

Coffee break

 15:30 - 16:30 

Panel Session #4

The impact of war – the issues facing a Tribunal for Ukraine 

  • (Chair) Professor Dapo Akande, Chichele Professor of Public International Law, Co-Director, Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law & Armed Conflict, University of Oxford 

  • Svitlana Morenets, Award-winning Ukrainian journalist at The Spectator 

  • Alicia Kearns MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee 

  • Schona Jolly KC, Barrister and leading expert in public international law 

  • Kirsty Brimelow KC, Barrister and leading expert in public international law 

 16:30 - 17:00 

Closing remarks keynotes

 17:00 - 17:30 





Church House Conference Centre

Deans Yard, London, SW1P 3NZ

 Church House Conference Centre is accessed via Dean’s Yard 


Wheelchair access available from the Great Smith street entrance 

Great Smith Street, SW1P 3AZ


Nearest underground: St James’s Park or Westminster Station

Nearest train stations: London Victoria, London Waterloo or London Charing Cross



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