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What are the international legal implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Experts discuss key issues including military aggression, laws of war, refugee protection, sanctions and more.

What international laws apply in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the subject of a panel discussion on 14 March 2022, held both on site and online at the Hertie School, organised by the Centre for Fundamental Rights (CFR).

Six experts discussed which rights, prohibitions and obligations are at stake in the context of Russia’s military aggression, including laws on the use of force, armed conflict, protection of refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as civil and criminal accountability and the use of international sanctions.   

Participants included CFR Co-Directors Başak Çalı, Professor of International Law at the Hertie School, and Cathryn Costello, Professor of Fundamental Rights, as well as Tomer Broude, International Law professor at Hebrew University, Alexandre Skander Galand, postdoctoral researcher at the CFR, Yulia Ioffe, Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at University College London, and Ganna Yudkivska, judge at the European Court of Human Rights. Acting Hertie School President Mark Hallerberg opened the discussion.

In her opening statement, Çalı said, “Russia in its legal justifications underlines that Western states violated these very same rules themselves on numerous occasions. Giving as an example the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies in 2003.  But other states’ unlawful actions in the past cannot justify unlawful actions of states in the present.”

She also commented on whether all states and international organisations are doing their utmost to fulfil their collective duties to end the aggression. “It is in effect the primary responsibility of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to co-ordinate all responses to put an end to this aggression, but because the UNSC can no longer serve this purpose, instead we have a highly decentralised form of responses,” she said.

“Some states are supporting Ukraine through the provision of lethal weapons and even intelligence, as in the case of US, and are imposing sanctions. Some impose sanctions and offer humanitarian assistance, as is the case for Hungary, and others refrain from taking any measures. Only time will show whether the totality of these responses will effectively ensure the international community’s obligation to co-operate to put an end to this act of aggression and not recognise any of its consequences as legal.”

A recording of the event is available here.

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