Skip to main content

Letter by Human Rights Watch on Ukraine Rome Statute Ratification

Council conclusions on enlargement: Call on Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Brussels 29 November 2023


Dear Ambassador,

On 12 December the Council of the European Union will adopt its annual conclusions on Enlargement and Stabilization and Association Process, while on 14-15 December the European Council will discuss Ukraine’s EU integration. We urge you to include in the text of these conclusions a call on Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a matter of priority.

The EU is at the forefront of seeking accountability for serious crimes committed in Ukraine, including by supporting the work of the International Criminal Court. Ukraine has already accepted the court’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on its territory since November 2013 through two declarations. As such, the court’s prosecutor has a mandate to investigate serious crimes committed in Ukraine, regardless of the nationality of the suspects. Ukraine, regardless of the nationality of the suspects.

Despite the court’s crucial role to investigate and prosecute serious crimes in the country – most recently reflected in its arrest warrants for Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova – Ukraine has yet to take the final step of formally becoming an ICC member.

Calling on Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute would be in line with this year’s European Commission enlargement report on Ukraine that lists ratification of the Rome Statute as a priority for the next 12 months. It is also in line with previous Council conclusions such as the 9 December 2022 conclusions "on the fight against impunity in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine," in which the Council called on Ukraine to accede to the Rome Statute, and the conclusions on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute from 26 June 2023 that called on EU candidate countries "to urgently ratify or accede to the Rome Statute.”  

There is also consensus among Ukrainian and international civil society organizations that joining the ICC is an essential step in responding to serious crimes committed in Ukraine. 

Overall, ratification of the Rome Statute would:

  • Bolster global support for accountability for grave crimes committed in Ukraine and beyond as it would signal Ukraine’s willingness to strengthen the international justice system as a whole;
  • Give Ukraine full rights of membership to the ICC governing body, the Assembly of States Parties. These include participation in the election of the ICC prosecutor and other senior ICC officials; decisions over the court’s budget; and influence over court reforms;
  • Offer a framework to complete much needed reforms in Ukraine’s domestic judicial system. This would address existing gaps in criminal and criminal procedure legislation and improve the overall effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions of serious international crimes in a way that responds to the gravity and breadth of crimes and to victims’ and survivors’ need for comprehensive justice.

In the context of Ukraine’s EU accession process and the obligations of EU membership[IK8] , the EU and its member states have a particularly important leadership role to play to create the political incentives for Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute. The forthcoming Council conclusions are a critical opportunity to do so.

Thank you for your consideration. We remain at your disposal should you require any further information.


Your sincerely,

Iskra Kirova

Advocacy Director, Europe and Central Asia

Human Rights Watch




Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country