09 Mar The Court of the Citizens of the World: Opinion of Zakeria M. Yacoob, Judge of TCCW and Final Decision
[Judge Zak (Zakeria M.) Yacoob is a Retired Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.]
The Court of the Citizens of the World – a peoples tribunal – was organized by the Cinema for Peace Foundation, relating to the crime of aggression in Ukraine. The tribunal considered charges brought against Vladimir Putin for the crime of aggression presented by a Prosecution team, and heard witness testimony from 20 – 23 February 2023 in public hearings in The Hague. The three judges at this tribunal – Zak Yacoob, Stephen Rapp and Priya Pillai – came to a decision regarding confirmation of the charges, and these posts are their independent reasons relating to the decision, pronounced at the last hearing of the tribunal on 24 February 2023.
This part of the opinion was delivered after the opinions of Judges Stephen Rapp and Priya Pillai had delivered their opinions which have been already published at this forum and must be read in that context. The opinion starts with a few comments with which Judges Pillai and Rapp substantially agree. The text of the final written decision delivered at the hearing is then set out.
24 February 2023
Thank you very very much Judges Rapp and Plilai. It is now my turn. Before I read the order or decision of the Court signed by all of us, I would like to make a few comments or observations of my own.
I must first clarify and emphasise that the order, judgment or decision of the Court of Citizens of the world has no legal authority and is accordingly not binding on anyone. However, this can by no stretch of the imagination mean that it is useless. On the contrary, this Court has the force of moral persuasion, and hopefully, the moving, substantial and genuine evidence heard here, and the decision of the Court now being delivered, will be a powerful instrument or convincing reason and will serve soon to persuade the International community to take immediate and appropriate action against Vladimorovich Putin, the President of Russia to face trial.
Second, I must draw pertinent attention to the fact that while there has been some evidence which bordered on ideological criticism of one side and implied praise of another, the prosecution has considered that any question of ideological correctness is entirely irrelevant to our decision. Neither the evidence presented nor our decision must be understood as support for one ideology or another.
Thirdly, I would like to set out my general approach which must be seen in the context of the other valuable components read by my colleagues and heard earlier earlier today. The approach is that it is common cause, or to put it differently, there can be no dispute whatever about the fact that there was a violent, unacceptable incursion by the Russian Army into an independent Ukraine before Ukraine’s direct involvement in any armed attack against Russia. There has not, nor could there have been, any denial of this inescapable hard fact.
In fact, President Putin has claimed full responsibility for this brutal incursion and has attempted to justify it. The “justification” can only be described as nothing but pathetic and absolutely manipulative. His actions are an affront and insult to the International Community and to the integrity of the citizens of the world. Years of preparation and planning refute the proffered public justification and I reject it in no uncertain terms.
Fourth, we have been considerably moved by the untold suffering of tens of thousands of vulnerable human beings who were not army personnel. We have heard evidence of a representative sample of these atrocities over a long four days. This evidence was emotionally utterly exhausting. But we have done our duty. We express our deepest sympathy with the people of the Ukraine and express the fervent hope that there will be at least some justice and restitution.
Finally, I am compelled to state that national and international peace and security are completely interrelated. It is not possible to have national peace and security without international peace and security. And the impunity of leaders for their heinous actions simply because they are leaders of their countries is anathema to the achievement of world justice.
I now read the decision that all of us have signed.
THE COURT OF THE CITIZENS OF THE WORLD
File Number TCCW-1
VLADIMIR VLADIMIROVICH PUTIN (“VLADIMIR PUTIN”)
ORDER CONFIRMING INDICTMENT
The Court of the Citizens of the World sitting at The Spanish Court in The Hague has heard sufficient credible evidence to support a finding that there exist substantial grounds to believe that the President of Russian Federation used grievous and destructive armed force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of Ukraine and confirms the indictment presented to the Court by The Office of the Prosecutor based upon the Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the authority of the Rule of Law, in that VLADIMIROVICH PUTIN has committed thousands of acts amounting to the Crime of Aggression. These constitute, in particular, contraventions of Article 8 bis (a), (b), (c) and (d), of the ICC Statute and the authority of the Rule of Law.
By actions taken commencing in January 2021 or earlier and continuing until today and in plans for the future, President VLADIMIR VLADIMIROVICH PUTIN, through his de jure and de facto power and authority, and thus in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political and military action of the Russian Federation, planned, prepared, initiated and executed and continues to plan and execute, the Russian Federation’s acts of aggression in Ukraine. The Court accordingly:
a. finds that there are substantial grounds for the confirmation of an indictment to be issued against President Vladimirovich Putin for more than one thousand instances of the Crime of Aggression committed against the territory and people of Ukraine from about January 2021 or earlier until cessation of Russian hostilities.
b. issues an indictment against President Vladimirovich Putin for contraventions cited above and because those acts were of such character, gravity, and scale that they constituted a manifest violation of Article 2(4) of Charter of the United Nations for the reasons described by the judges in their oral opinions; and
c. calls upon and urges the United Nations, the European Union and all the governments and peoples of this world to take every step necessary to ensure that a court with legal powers issues an indictment against President Vladimirovich Putin and takes appropriate measures to arrest the perpetrator and put him on trial in an official Ukraine tribunal as soon as possible.
Agreed and signed on this 24th day of February 2023 by the judges of this Court.