In comments this week, senior U.S. officials said the administration believes that would be the best way to hold Russia accountable for its year-old invasion. However, they also acknowledge that the prospects for a court to actually take custody of any Russian official for trial are slim.
“The United States supports the development of a special tribunal on the crime of aggression against Ukraine in the form of an internationalized court that is rooted in Ukraine’s judicial system, with international elements,” the State Department said in comments emailed to reporters.
The officials said they envision a hybrid tribunal based on the Ukrainian justice system but with international components — similar to previous ad hoc war crimes courts set up for Cambodia, Chad, the Central African Republic and Bosnia — and likely based in The Hague, Netherlands.
“This kind of model — an internationalized national court — will facilitate broader international support and demonstrate Ukraine’s leadership in ensuring accountability for the crime of aggression,” the State Department said. “It also builds upon the example of other successful justice mechanisms.”
The Hague will be home to the International Center for Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression, a Ukraine-focused investigations unit that is expected to be fully operational this summer. The center's offices and staff could be incorporated into whatever tribunal is eventually created, the U.S. officials said.
The Hague also hosts the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. The ICC prosecutor issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and an aide earlier this month for the abductions of Ukrainian children.
But the U.S. is not a member of the ICC, which complicates its ability to support the court with evidence or other information that could be used in its prosecutions.