Recently The PALADINS have been approached by one or more persons and/or entities asking us to represent them in filing proceedings before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, arising out of events taking place in Ukraine. In principle such work falls squarely within the parameters of our expertise and we would be delighted to accept such instructions.
However in Ukraine cases we intend to proceed with caution. While we welcome all enquiries, any decision to represent a client (complainant or defendant) before the International Criminal Court is a major undertaking and not one for any law firm to accept lightly.
The PALADINS would probably be able to represent only one such client, because whichever case we take on might well create practical conflicts of interest with representing any other such client before the International Criminal Court. That is because many or all of the Ukraine war crimes cases are likely to arise out of substantially the same political and military war crimes facts, the spin upon which we might present for one client being potentially inconsistent with the spin that best serves another client in a different case.
Therefore we will wait for a slightly longer period, to see which ICC case requests we receive and then we will decide which single case we accept.
The financial capacity and willingness of the client to pay our substantial invoices over months or years (remember that the ICC is a slow, bureaucratic institution and hence any such case would likely be a long-term piece of litigation) will be one factor we measure in making our decision as to which case to take.
Our own war crimes investigation unit, that you can read about in the news section of our website in several languages, is currently undertaking impartial investigations of the principal alleged war crime allegations made so far. You will find a register of our cases, and some case notes, on the news section of our website.
We do not feel it is appropriate to conduct both impartial investigations and to pursue active complaints about war crimes before a court, at the same time. Therefore if and when we accept instructions to make a filing before the International Criminal Court, we will have to bring our Ukraine war crimes investigations unit to a close.
One thing the war crimes investigation unit we have established has already come to realise is, that at the current time the documentary record for establishing any of the major alleged war crimes is scant and in need of further research. Typically each side is blaming the other for the same atrocities; forensic evidence is not being collected and hence will be lost; there are blizzards of social media comments upon individual war crimes allegations which are almost all of them entirely devoid of probative value; and the media in general is not approaching war crimes allegations with the requisite degree of judicial integrity before reporting upon them (there are some notable exceptions, so our courtesies to those war crimes journalists who are taking their public responsibilities seriously). That will likely change; but not yet. In the current atmosphere of clamour, any war crimes filing before the International Criminal Court will inevitably become used as a political football. That does not necessarily deter us; we are used to taking political cases. Nevertheless a delay of weeks or months may be appropriate before we begin this particular game of political football, to wait until some of the media hype about the subject has blown over and war crimes cases can be pursued in a more orderly, judicial fashion.
Therefore please keep your ICC requests coming; we will assess what you say and we will make a decision about which if any case to accept at a subsequent juncture.
We express our profound sympathies to the wounded and to the relatives of all people who have died during the war in Ukraine, whether or not the death or injury was the consequence of a war crime and whether the dead or wounded person is a civilian or military person; and irrespective of which side of war they are on. War is hell; and this author has personal experience of the death of a civilian family member in military theatre in an act that certainly was a war crime -never prosecuted. We are thinking of all victims and their relatives. We share their pain; words are not adequate to express the sorrow they feel.
We only wish we could bring back the dead or heal the wounded. We cannot. All we can do is to contribute to the judicial process of holding defendants accountable for the serious crimes they commit; and thereby to upholding standards in the international rule of law and deterring the commission of such war crimes in the next conflict the world will inevitably experience.