I thank my constituency neighbour for his question. This Government firmly believe in international accountability. Ukraine’s judiciary should be congratulated on prosecuting war crimes right now, in real time, during a brutal conflict. On Monday I met a delegation of Ukrainian judges in this building and heard how they are approaching this monumental task. They are grateful for our practical support, including an extensive training programme led by Sir Howard Morrison.
The crime of aggression is one of the most significant in international criminal law. At Ukraine’s invitation, we have joined a core group of states to discuss the establishment of a bespoke tribunal. We are absolutely determined to play a leading role in ensuring international accountability for Russia’s actions.
At the moment, the international community is rightly focused on prosecuting war crimes. That is the right focus, as we hope that in so doing we will have a good effect on the behaviour of those fighting this conflict at the moment. We are undoubtedly starting to turn our minds to reparations, and there is a great deal of work going on within Government on how best to support the Ukrainians to do that. I know that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is very involved in that.
Three weeks ago, the Secretary of State for Justice told me from the Dispatch Box that Russian war crimes would be pursued via Ukrainian domestic courts and the International Criminal Court, even though that denied the possibility of prosecuting Putin and his inner circle for the crime of aggression. At the time, the Attorney General appeared to share his view. Last week the Foreign Office welcomed the special tribunal necessary to try Putin, saying it would “complement established mechanisms”. That is welcome, and I think it is what the Attorney General has said today, but can she—because we know her to be a candid and thoughtful person—explain and confirm what by any definition is a screeching U-turn in Government policy?
I am afraid I really would not describe this as a screeching U-turn—[Interruption.] No, not at all. This is a development in a very difficult area of international law. [Interruption.] I would just listen to this for a moment. It is a very delicate area of international law. This is a live and brutal conflict—we are all agreed on that—and it is right that most of the prosecutions take place in Ukraine, with real-time evidence and with witnesses present. Those prosecutions are going well, and I think we all support the Ukrainian judiciary in that. I hope very much that there will be an international moment of accountability following this war. I suspect that many courts will need to be involved, including both the ICC and any special tribunal.
I call the SNP spokesperson.
It is almost one year to the day since the beginning of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and an estimated 7,000 civilian lives have been lost during this time, in one of the most barbaric atrocities against civilians recorded since the second world war. Given that the UK will host a major international meeting on war crimes in March, what further support will the Attorney General give on information sharing and testimonial gathering, and on ensuring that legal expertise will be fully utilised to hold Russian war criminals to account?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. It is fortuitous that the Lord Chancellor has just entered the Chamber, because in March he is hosting an important conference, with the Dutch, to discuss how further we can help and support the work of the ICC. Further, we have the work of the special tribunal that I mentioned, and we are providing a great deal of practical help on the ground in training Ukrainian judges and providing funding to help them to find evidence and to prosecute these crimes effectively.