International Law and Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine — Legal Action (ICJ and ICC) and Economic Sanctions — Complementary and Historical.


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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been met with historical challenges to it in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court (and in the General Assembly).

Ukraine filed and action in the International Court of Justice and it is currently deciding Ukraine’s request for provisional measures. Of course, Russia did not appear. Thirty-nine referrals have been made to the International Criminal Court.  The ICC prosecutor has indicated that he is moving forward on the issue of war crimes against individuals. Indeed, special tribunals may also be established against Russia. 

The Genral Assembly (after Russia’s veto in the Security Council) acting under the ‘Uniting for Peace Resolution’ referred the matter to the General Assembly.  It promptly and almost unanimously condemned Russian actions and called for unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces.

To me, this legal offensive is complementing the economic sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation by the United States and many others — very broad and very prompt. 

The international legal system is working and is an historical first — in confronting so promptly such grievous and gross violations of international law.

….. “International Law Goes to War in Ukraine.” Foreign Affairs (March 15th, 2022).


About Stuart Malawer

Distinguished Service Professor of Law & International Trade at George Mason University (Schar School of Public Policy).
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