Two international legal experts discussed how to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine at a conference hosted by Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School on Wednesday.
Speakers include Yale Law School Professor Harold H. Ko ’75, and Patrick W. Pearsall, Director of the International Relations Program at Columbia Law School. Ko and Pearsall spoke about their experiences on behalf of Ukraine in legal proceedings against Russia before the International Court of Justice.
In February, Russia launched a major offensive against Ukraine, sparking international outcry and accusations of war crimes committed by the Russian military.
Ko said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marked the beginning of “not one but three wars” between the countries. In addition to the active conflict on the ground, Russia and Ukraine are involved in “cyber warfare” and “law enforcement,” he said.
“Putin’s short game is strong. Ukraine’s long game is legal,” Ko said.
Arguing before the ICJ in March, Ko said that the case “is not about Russia and Ukraine, but about Russia after the war, international law,” he said. .
Ko said one of the Ukrainian legal team’s goals is for the ICJ to declare Russia’s actions illegal, which would “divide Putin and his allies” and make it harder for other countries to support Russia. in the war.
Later that month, the ICJ ruled against Ukraine, classifying Russia’s actions as illegal and ordering Russia to end its aggression.
Pearsall spoke of the importance of accountability at a time when “the foundations of international law are shaking,” citing a resolution passed Monday by the United Nations General Assembly. The world seeks to hold Russia accountable for its actions in the invasion of Ukraine.
“It was established clearly and unequivocally that when a government does something wrong, it will be held accountable for it, and there will be consequences,” Pearsall said.
The UN resolution calls for the establishment of an “international mechanism” to provide reparations for individuals who have claims against the Russian army. Pearsall said one way to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes is to create a reparations commission, which he described as a “special forum for settling claims.”
Ko said the current legal action against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine will have a major impact on the future of international law.
“The Iran crisis in the 1970s and 80s shaped the next forty years of international law, which I lived in,” he said.
“Russia-Ukraine will build the next forty years,” Ko added.