Ratification must become a clear action item, rather than a distant goal | ULAG at the Embassies and International Organisations Briefing on RS Ratification


More than anything else, non-ratification of the Rome Statute indicates a clear lack of political will. International partners, as a key factor in making ratification happen, should change the approach when communicating the issue with the Ukrainian government, to make the change possible.

Arie Mora, Advocacy and Communications Manager of ULAG, spoke at the Briefing for Embassies and International Organisations representatives on the importance of Rome Statute Ratification. The event took place on November 22, and was organised by Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), with the support of its partners USAID, member organisations of the Tribunal for Putin Initiative and Ukraine 5 AM Coalition

Arie shared the panel with distinguished speakers: Dmytro Koval, Truth Hounds (TH); Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU); Roman Romanov, International Renaissance Foundation (IRF) and Volodymyr Yavorskyi (CCL). Oleksandra Romantsova (CCL) moderated the event.

Throughout the years, Ukrainian authorities stated various reasons for why the Rome Statute cannot be ratified. One of the most popular ones is the “opposition among the military towards ratification”. This claim, however, has never been substantiated, as there is no clarity or clear evidence with regards to who exactly is against it, how big or high-level this person or a group is, if it exists at all.

One can assume there might be some sort of opposition, but its scale and weight has always been presumed. It is also still barely challenged by the international partners, when hearing this excuse from the government representatives. 

Civil society organisations conducted focus groups and interviews with representatives of the veteran community, in particular, asking them about their stance on Rome Statute ratifications. The idea did not cause resistance among the military — all the participants spoke positively about the ratification of the Rome Statute in Ukraine. Ratification, according to the feedback from the interviewed veterans and military personnel, should contribute to the investigation of crimes, alignment of legislation, and accession of Ukraine to the EU.

Within the last months the rhetoric has shifted. Ukraine, government reps say, should address existing prejudices about the Rome Statute, but it shouldn't be rushed, and this can wait till after the war. Andriy Smyrnov, Deputy Head of the Office of the President, stated that "The ratification of the Rome Statute should be approached with caution, with a clear answer to several questions: why should it be done now, during the war, without appropriate explanatory work among the military, that ratification does not represent any new discoveries for them. The second question is why Ukraine needs it."

When addressing the representatives of the embassies and international organisations, Arie Mora stated that such an approach reflects a clear lack of political will to make a decision. The Ukrainian government can postpone the ratification indefinitely, arguing it is not the right time and saying they are afraid of destabilisation, although there is no clarity as to whether the Rome Statute issue is that controversial and potentially destabilising, especially comparatively to other factors that can “shake the boat”. In the abovementioned report, the majority of those surveyed among Ukrainian citizens support the ratification.