European lawyers call for trial of Putin following Ukraine invasion

Russia’s actions breach fundamental principles of international law, CCBE says

A group representing more than a million lawyers in 45 countries in Europe has called for an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) "with a view to the trial of the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and his accomplices" following the invasion of Ukraine.

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) said Russia’s actions “breach the fundamental and generally accepted principles of international law”.

All states must respect the fundamental obligations, values, principles and freedoms set out in the Charter of the United Nations, the European Convention on Human Rights and other instruments and general principles of international law, the CCBE president James MacGuill, a solicitor and former president of the Law Society of Ireland, said.

The CCBE, which represents the Bars and law societies of 45 countries, supported the demand of EU institutions and the international community that Russia “immediately ceases its illegal invasion of Ukraine”. The unwarranted invasion of a sovereign state represents an “egregious attack” on the rule of law, it said.


The group welcomed the statement of the prosecutor of the ICC that the court may exercise its jurisdiction over and investigate any act of genocide, crime against humanity or war crime committed within the territory of Ukraine since February 20th, 2014, onwards.

The prosecutor said any person who commits such crimes, including by ordering, inciting or contributing in another manner to the commission of them, may be liable to prosecution before the ICC.

The CCBE called on the prosecutor to commence an immediate investigation in this respect “with a view to the trial of the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and his accomplices”.

“The Ukrainian people deserve the protection of the international legal order,” the CCBE said.


The lawyers group expressed solidarity with their Ukrainian colleagues and said it was also mindful of the position of those Russian colleagues “who do not feel able to speak out against this illegal war for fear of their lives”.

The right to asylum should be respected and assured in this context and humanitarian assistance provided to those in need, it said. It encouraged EU and other European states to take the necessary measures in that regard to help people fleeing conflict and violence.

The group also encouraged lawyers to provide legal assistance to people seeking international protection and said it welcomed that many legal professionals are already engaged in such actions.

The Law Society of Ireland endorsed the CCBE statement, and joined in the condemnation of the invasion.

Society president Michelle Ní Longáin said: “This use of threat and force is a clear violation of international law by which all UN member states abide. The rule of law, protection of human rights and principles of democracy must be upheld. We support a swift and lawful end to this conflict.”

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times