How does Russia “militarize” the judicial space?

“A sham trial”, according to Amnesty International, in an article published on 26 August. For days, Russia appears to be preparing to install a court in Mariupol, a war-scarred Ukrainian city under Russian occupation, to try Ukrainian prisoners of war. Under international pressure, the militarization of the judicial space becomes, for Russia, a strategic imperative. A weapon that it already uses in international relations.

Concern over future “Mariupol trials”

In all, 23 Ukrainian fighters should be judged within an ad hoc “international tribunal”, built in the former philharmonic orchestra in Mariupol, a city martyred by the conflict. Among them are several from the controversial Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian paramilitary unit with many far-right sympathizers in its ranks, which has established itself as a privileged target of Russian propaganda and the “denazification” of the country. These rumors were confirmed by the publication of a large number of photos and videos on social networks attesting to the construction of metal cages in the former premises of the Philharmonic, intended to accommodate prisoners during the trial.

An “international court” that the vast majority of the international community does not appreciate. ” These show trial projects are illegitimate and a travesty of justice, we strongly condemn them condemns the United States through the voice of Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department. NGOs, like the Ukrainian government, also fear that these trials will violate the Geneva Convention, which frames the rights of prisoners of war and protects them from unfair trials. At the UN level, the concern also continues, while the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani recalled at the end of August that ” persons granted prisoner of war status enjoy the immunity granted to combatants and cannot be prosecuted for participation in hostilities or for lawful acts of war committed during the armed conflict “. Prisoners risk the death penalty. A few weeks earlier, Ukraine condemned ” a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war after the bombardment of a penal colony of Ukrainian prisoners, the final count of which was 53 dead and 75 wounded, including many members of the Azov Battalion.

The prisoners’ precious currency

On both sides of the conflict, the prisoners are also a valuable bargaining chip for recruiting new combatants. On 2 September, the Coordination Center for Ukrainian Prisoners of War confirmed that fourteen prisoners had been returned to Ukraine, without specifying the number of Russian soldiers released in exchange. On June 29, 144 Ukrainian soldiers were released. If Ukraine does not communicate the number of Russian prisoners released in return, Olena Vysotska, Ukraine’s deputy justice minister, says the Kremlin is negotiating above all “the Chechens, the special forces, the pilots… the most qualified soldiers”. Opposite to, “those they are least interested in are the fighters from the separatist republics of Luhansk and Donetsk”. Regular soldiers, on the other hand, are likely to wait longer in Ukrainian prisons before hoping to return to Russia. The fate of prisoners captured by fighters from the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, on the other hand, is often even more swift. Last June, three foreign fighters, two Moroccans and one British, fighters within the Ukrainian forces were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Donetsk after a summary trial.

Russia also uses the prisoners’ weapons to defend its interests against its rivals. Last February, American basketball player Brittney Griner, a two-time Olympic champion and Team USA star, was arrested in Moscow for possession of cannabis oil (CBD) and faces very harsh penalties. She thus joins Paul Whelan, a former American soldier, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for “espionage”. Russia, for its part, hopes to recover the notorious Viktor Bout, a Russian arms smuggler detained in the United States and sentenced to 25 years in prison, played on the screen by Nicolas Cage in Lord of War, released in 2005. In mid-August , Russia acknowledged the existence of exchanges involving Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan and Viktor Bout. On April 27, a former US Marine, Trevor Reed, was replaced by Konstantin Yaroshenko in Turkey after he had been sentenced to 20 years in prison by a US court. One of Russia’s priorities today is businesswoman Marsha Lazareva, former director of the Kuwaiti investment company KGLI and its investment fund, Port Fund (TPF). Accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars in the Philippines to the detriment of the Kuwaiti investment fund, she is the subject of renewed interest from Russia, which is trying to negotiate her extradition from Kuwait, which remains deaf to his pleas.

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