BODIES AND ORGANISATIONS WORKING IN THE FIELD OF LAW AND LAWYERS FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE, INCLUDING THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
On 24 February 2022, the Russian Federation declared an unprovoked war on Ukraine. The Russian armed forces have attacked the entire territory of Ukraine, causing massive destruction, deaths and suffering. People, including civilians, are being killed and Ukraine’s infrastructure, including residential buildings, hospitals and nurseries, is being destroyed.
With this open letter, we, the members of the legal community of Ukraine, representing all regions in the West, East, South, and North of Ukraine, are appealing, first of all, to the lawyers of the Russian Federation. We are unanimous in our opinion — Ukraine is an independent and sovereign state whose territorial integrity is guaranteed by international law. Therefore, only we, the people of Ukraine, and our democratically elected government can resolve on the domestic and foreign policy of our state. Now we need you support to ensure that the Russian government very clearly understands this.
Every lawyer in the Russian Federation who remains silent about the war that your country wages on Ukraine, supports the war. Each of you, who turns a blind eye to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, facilitates the act of aggression and encourages the aggressive policies of the Kremlin. International law prohibits military aggression and guarantees the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, and every lawyer in the Russian Federation should remember this.
Your political and military leadership attempts to cover their actions by Article 51 of Section VII of the UN Statute, which gives the right to individual and collective protection in the event of an armed attack on a member of the organisation. However, you, as lawyers, should know better than anyone else, that only states possess such a right. The so-called “republics” that have been illegally formed within certain parts of the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine are not states and have never been recognised as such by the United Nations and the global community.
Please be reminded that the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Article 353) stipulates, “1. Planning, preparing or unleashing an aggressive war shall be punishable by deprivation of liberty for a term of seven to fifteen years. 2. Waging an aggressive war shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of ten to twenty years.”
Because of your silence and cowardice, we, Ukrainian lawyers, judges, prosecutors, notaries, men and women, are fighting against the aggression of the Russian Federation with weapons in our hands.
Given this, we hereby urge each member of the Russian legal community, to:
– publicly express your opinion, condemning the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. Your President claims that the people of the Russian Federation support him. It is therefore critically important to show that this is not true!
– disseminate this appeal among the members of the legal community of the Russian Federation and publicly support it. You are the elite of the Russian society, which determines what your country will look like tomorrow and in the years to come. The President of the Russian Federation cannot violate the norms of international law without being condemned by lawyers who are obliged to protect the rule of law and human rights.
– support and provide free legal aid to all detainees of protests against the war in Ukraine that are being held across the Russian Federation. Russian people should be sure that their rights will not be violated if they enter the streets of Russian cities to express and defend their civil position.
We, Ukrainian lawyers, also appeal to foreign and international law associations, organisations and educational institutions as well as law firms and each and every lawyer across the globe to (i) openly and resolutely condemn Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine and (ii) urge their members to sign a join statement to this effect, demanding that their governments provide all necessary support to Ukraine and stop any cooperation with businesses and governmental agencies of the Russian Federation.
We call upon all lawyers and legal associations in the Russian Federation to join this appeal. Together our voice is stronger! We must stay united, because now, more than ever, both lives of your citizens and the future of your country are at stake!