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  • Gurpreet Kaur

Understanding the Ukraine War Through the Lens of International Criminal Law

Written by: -Gurpreet Kaur, LLM (Master of laws ), School of Law, Lovely Professional University, Punjab

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has brought to light numerous violations of international

law, sparking debates about accountability and justice on a global scale. As the conflict

unfolds, its crucial to examine the events through the framework of international criminal

law to understand the legal implications and potential avenues for accountability.

The Context:

The war in Ukraine, which began in 2014, has involved various actors, including the

Ukrainian government, Russian forces, separatist groups, and international players. The

conflict has resulted in thousands of deaths, widespread displacement, and significant

human suffering.

Violations of International Criminal Law:

1. War Crimes: Numerous reports have documented incidents that could constitute war

crimes, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, the use of prohibited weapons, and the

deliberate targeting of hospitals, schools, and other civilian infrastructure.

2. Crimes Against Humanity:There have been allegations of widespread and systematic

attacks against civilians, including killings, torture, and enforced disappearances, which may

amount to crimes against humanity under international law.

3. Violation of Geneva Conventions:The conflict has seen violations of the Geneva

Conventions, which govern the conduct of armed conflict, including the treatment of

prisoners of war, protection of civilians, and the distinction between combatants and non-


Accountability and Justice:

1. International Criminal Court (ICC): While Ukraine is not a party to the Rome

Statute, the ICC could potentially exercise jurisdiction over the situation if the crimes

committed on Ukrainian territory involve nationals of ICC member states or if the UN

Security Council refers the situation to the Court.

2. International Criminal Tribunal: The establishment of an ad hoc international

criminal tribunal, similar to those for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, could be

considered to prosecute individuals responsible for serious violations of international law in


3.National Prosecutions: States have a duty to investigate and prosecute individuals

responsible for international crimes, regardless of their nationality or where the crimes

occurred. Ukraine and other affected states could pursue prosecutions domestically or

through universal jurisdiction laws.

4.Truth and Reconciliation: In addition to legal accountability, efforts to uncover the

truth about past atrocities and promote reconciliation among affected communities are

essential for long-term peace and stability in Ukraine.


The conflict in Ukraine presents a complex challenge for the international community, not

only in terms of finding a resolution to the ongoing violence but also in ensuring

accountability for those responsible for violations of international law. By examining the

situation through the lens of international criminal law, we can better understand the legal

dimensions of the conflict and work towards justice for the victims and accountability for

the perpetrators. It is imperative for the international community to remain engaged and

committed to upholding the principles of international law to prevent further atrocities and

promote peace in Ukraine and beyond.

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