The Malaysian Bar is gravely concerned and saddened by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Russia’s unprovoked invasion – and it is undoubtedly an invasion – of Ukraine has reportedly resulted in more than 1,000 civilian deaths at the time of writing this press release [6 March].
The effect of this consequential humanitarian crisis transcends the borders of Ukraine as people flee across international borders into neighbouring countries. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated as many as four million people may flee Ukraine in the coming weeks and months.
The Malaysian Bar unequivocally condemns Russia’s actions, which demonstrate a blatant disregard for the Charter of the UN and fundamental principles of public international law, as well as international humanitarian law.
We note that the government of Malaysia has voted in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia for its attack on Ukraine. The resolution established that it “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and demanded that “the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine” and “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine”.
We nonetheless urge the government of Malaysia to take further action to denounce these acts that run afoul of a modern society that abides by the rule of law.
Appreciating that one of the key pillars of the doctrine of the rule of law is accountability, the Malaysian Bar also voices our support towards the decision of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to commence investigations over possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, in light of the events unfolding in Ukraine.
Malaysia has already suffered once before at the hands of state-sponsored terrorism in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014. We must do all we can to end violence against innocent parties.
The Malaysian Bar therefore urges the UN and the international community to take firm and realistic steps to bring an end to this crisis on an urgent basis. Russia should cease its use of force against Ukraine and abide by the principles of international law. Parties should turn to discussion and dialogue, and not resort to unjustified attacks.
It is abundantly clear that there is no place for such violent aggression and bloodshed in the 21st Century. While the events in Ukraine have garnered international attention, we should not forget that there are many other countries or places in the world that are plagued by ongoing struggles and conflicts — including in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic, Palestine, and Afghanistan, to name a few.
The UN needs to play an active role in safeguarding international peace and security, and this is done by helping parties in conflict make peace, by protecting civilians, and by restoring the rule of law in regions beset by conflict.
It is during these dire times that we send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Ukraine who are bravely defending their country. In this violence, there have been many civilian casualties, and one death is already one too many.
The hostilities must end now, and we urge for diplomacy and an immediate end to the violence. Countries with military might must immediately realise that, as Winston Churchill once said: “Where there is great power there is great responsibility”.
AG Kalidas is president of the Malaysian Bar
This piece is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.