The International Bar Association
(IBA) has condemned Russia's incursion into Ukraine as a violation of the United Nations (UN) Charter and calls for an independent international investigation into the matter, according to a statement of the IBA sent to Interfax-Ukraine.
"Ukraine is a sovereign state; Russia, as a UN Member State, is bound by the UN Charter's prohibition on the use of force against [Ukraine]," IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis said.
"The prohibition against force has only three exceptions: when authorized by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII; when there is consent from the territorial state; and when it is in self-defence," he said.
"The first two exceptions do not apply in this case, as the Security Council has not issued a Chapter VII resolution authorizing Russia to use force, and Ukraine has not consented to Russia's military intervention. The third exception of self-defence applies only in response to an armed attack. Ukraine has not perpetrated an armed attack upon Russia and accordingly Russia cannot employ the self-defence exception," he said.
"International law is highly proscriptive of the use of force against another state, stating, "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations." Deploying one state's armed forces into the territory of another state without consent falls within Article 2(4)'s prohibition," he said.
IBA said that Russia claims to be acting in accordance with international law, citing a threat from ultranationalists and the duty to defend Russian nationals in Ukraine.
"While a 'defence of nationals' concept has been invoked before in international law, this has been in situations where a state's nationals are under direct attack, taken hostage, or generally in a situation threatening grave bodily harm. There has been no such threat to Russian nationals in Crimea. Even if Russia's version of recent events in Ukraine is accepted - namely, the seizure of power by 'fascists and ultra-nationalists', threats of violence against ethnic Russians and Russian religious sites, and threats to Russia's national interests - these are not, either singly or collectively, recognized grounds for the violation of another state's territorial sovereignty or for deploying armed forces on that state's territory," reads the statement.
At the emergency UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine on March 3, 2014, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin read a statement from Ukraine's ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, who requested President Putin deploy armed forces to restore peace to Ukraine. However, Article 85(23) of the Ukrainian Constitution explicitly confers the power to approve the presence of foreign troops on Ukrainian territory on the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's Parliament) and, therefore, Yanukovych did not have the legal authority to invite intervention, the IBA said.
The request from the Chairman of the Council of Ministers for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea also does not constitute the legal basis for intervention, as Crimea derives its legal foundation as an autonomous republic from the Ukrainian Constitution and Ukrainian law, which also specifically provides that Crimea is within the administrative and territorial structure of Ukraine, the IBA said.
"Apart from the general principles of international law, by signing the 'Memorandum on Security Assurances', in Budapest on 5 December 1994, Russia (along with the United States and the United Kingdom) expressly accepted the obligations in a legally binding instrument 'to respect... the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine' and 'refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine," reads the statement.
"Another relevant principle of international law is the simple point that the UN system, created in the aftermath of World War II, is one of avowed collective security. Under that system, the UN Security Council has primary responsibility for monitoring, and reacting to, threats to world peace. Russia, like its fellow permanent members of the Security Council, has a special role and degree of responsibility in maintaining that system of international stability," IBA President Michael Reynolds said.