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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Who protected death squads from the Hague Tribunal?

11 February, 2014 - 11:42

The idea of the constantly working international criminal justice, which would persecute for military crimes and crimes against humanity, appeared right after the World War II. However, the international community managed to implement this idea only when the communist “evil empire,” which during the whole 20th century committed crimes whose brutality and obscurantism could be compared to those of the Third Reich, imploded with all its metastases.

In 1998, 120 countries finally signed the Rome Statute, which gave a foundation for creating the International Criminal Court, which started functioning in The Hague on July 1, 2002.

On January 20, 2000, Leonid Kuchma signed the Rome Statute on behalf of Ukraine in order to raise his approval rating, crippled by the pre-election acts of terror (assassinations of Yevhen Shcherban and Vadym Hetman), which were carried out during his presidency, and by systemic manipulations of his second term in office.

However, in the fall of 2000 Ukraine was shaken by the “tape scandal,” which made it known to everyone, and the international community in particular, that in Ukraine death squads exist right inside the law-enforcement system. That interior minister Yurii Kravchenko’s “hawks” are controlled by the Presidential Administration and protected by the top officers of Ukraine’s law-enforcement structures.

Kuchma reacted quickly, and in order to make the ratification of the Rome Statute by the Verkhovna Rada impossible, on February 12, 2001 he submitted an application to the Constitutional Court about the conformity of the Rome Statute with the Constitution of Ukraine. Why? Because an immediate threat to land in the dock in the International Criminal Court in The Hague became imminent. His crimes, which had signs of crimes against the humanity, came to the surface: murder of journalist Heorhii Gongadze, abduction and torturing of Oleksii Podolsky, attempt on the life of MP of two convocations Oleksandr Yeliashkevych. In case of an international independent investigation, dozens of other similar political assassinations and tortures would have surely come out.


On July 11, 2001, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, which was originally designed as a technical and auxiliary department of the Presidential Administration, established the “categorical” contradiction between the Rome Statute and the Constitution of Ukraine. The first and main argument was that international justice, unlike Ukrainian, does not admit of any national immunities and disregards the post or office held by a person, criminally prosecuting them in case they committed a crime against humanity. In other words, the Constitutional Court brutally distorted the spirit of the Ukrainian Constitution, which in the first place guarantees the protection of life and rights of a person. Instead, it protected the regime, the president, judges, and MPs, by granting them immunity even in case of their involvement in military crimes or crimes against humanity.

So it is thanks to Kuchma that today Berkut and interior minister Zakharchenko’s “hawks” can be so insolent while boasting of their guaranteed impunity.

Some may object: but the prospects of the international prosecution of crimes against humanity are possible even when a country is not a member of the Rome Statute, such proceedings are foreseen after a motion is submitted by the UN Security Council.

I agree, this is possible, theoretically.

But what happens when it comes to practice?

Will Russia, which has the right of veto at the UN Security Council, let the prosecution of “heroes of the Russian world” happen, considering the fact it supplied them with bullets and grenades? Will Putin allow to put under trial the Ukrainophobes and anti-Semites, FSB agents and residents whom he promoted to ministers, MPs, governors of the independent Ukraine, who now hold key posts in the “brotherly” Ukrainian president’s administration in order to give criminal orders aimed at Ukraine’s destruction? Let alone criminals in helms, on whom the Kremlin’s propaganda harnesses archangels’ wings for killing and crippling Ukrainian patriots.

At the same time, we must not give up. Ukrainians must press for the unbiased international trial as a means of national recovery. It is not going to be easy. The whole law-enforcement system along with a cohort of Ukrainian pseudo judges will oppose us. The fifth column will obsessively hamper our efforts. We will face treason again, because another president’s billions will keep on safeguarding their political risks in all parliamentary factions and state institutions. This money will keep on manipulating Ukrainian mass media like Ukrainska Pravda, which is not ashamed of openly playing in the interest of Kuchma and his family whom we, the victims, suspect in orchestrating the assassination of Gongadze, founder of this very Ukrainska Pravda.

But we shall not give up.

Let us gather all the facts and evidence thoroughly. And most importantly, let us vote at all the elections only for those candidates who will guarantee Ukraine’s joining the Rome Statute.

For until we achieve justice for the blood spilled on Hrushevsky Street, for suffering and deaths of the tortured in the woods, for the martyrdom of hostages in prisons and police basements, for Gongadze’s severed head, we cannot guarantee the genuine European future for our children.

By Oleksii PODOLSKY, public activist