Ukraine's Nobel laureate wants Putin tried justice for war crimes

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 10 2022 11:26 AM

Oleksandra Matvyychuk, representing the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), attends a meeting with the press at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, 09 December 2022. EPA-EFE/Håkon Mosvold Larsen
Oleksandra Matvyychuk, representing the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), attends a meeting with the press at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, 09 December 2022. EPA-EFE/Håkon Mosvold Larsen

The co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, Ukraine's Oleksandra Matviichuk, called on Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be brought before an international tribunal.

Speaking to reporters in Oslo on the eve of the Nobel prize award ceremony, the human rights lawyer said she was confident Putin would be tried "sooner or later".

"For decades, (the) Russian military committed war crimes in many countries of the world, and they have never been punished", she said.

"Now, we must break the circle of impunity. We must establish an international tribunal and hold Putin, (Belarus President Alexander) Lukashenko, and other war criminals accountable, not only for Ukrainians but for the other nations in the world", she said.

Founded in 2007, the Kyiv-based Center for Civil Liberties (CCL) headed by Matviichuk documents war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.

"This war has a genocidal character," she said in English. "If Ukraine stops its resistance, there will be no more of us."

"So I have no doubt that sooner or later Putin will appear before an international court."

The CCL was in October awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with jailed Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski and the Russian human rights organization Memorial, which Russia's Supreme Court has ordered dissolved.

The trio was honored for their struggle for "human rights, democracy, and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine", the Nobel committee said at the time.

They represent the three nations at the center of the war in Ukraine, which has plunged Europe into its worst security crisis since World War II.

Putin will stop 'when stopped'

Seemingly ruling out negotiations, Matviichuk again urged the West to help Ukraine free its territory occupied by Russia, including Crimea.

"Putin will stop when he will be stopped", she stressed. 

"Authoritarian leaders ... see any attempt to dialogue as a sign of weakness".

At her side, the chairman of the board of Memorial, Yan Rachinsky, also called for war crimes to be rapidly tried in court -- without specifically referring to those committed in Ukraine.

But he said the International Criminal Court in The Hague was best suited, rather than an ad hoc tribunal preferred by Matviichuk.

"This punishment should come straight away, without any delay, because we have seen a lot of examples when criminals were left unpunished and died safely in their own beds", Rachinsky said.

The existing legal basis is sufficient in order to bring to justice not only "the rank and file perpetrators because they execute orders, but also the masterminds," he said.

The third Nobel laureate, Ales Bialiatski, founder of rights group Viasna, has been detained since July 2020 pending trial following Minsk's crackdown on large-scale protests against the regime.

He faces 12 years in prison. 

His wife Natalia Pinchuk, who will accept his Nobel prize on his behalf, said "the issue of Belarus is also being decided on the battlefield of Ukraine".

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