Statement on Russia’s violations of international law in Ukraine
The University of Sydney Law School condemns, as a most serious violation of customary international law and the United Nations Charter, the Russian Federation’s escalating military attack on Ukraine, which commenced with Russia’s occupation of Crimea, and invasion of Donbas, in 2014, and continues with the current assaults across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv and other major cities.
Russia’s attack constitutes an illegal use of force; an armed attack giving Ukraine a right of self-defence; illegal aggression; a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine; and an illegal intervention in Ukraine’s internal affairs. None of Russia’s purported legal justifications has any foundation in international law. Russia is also prohibited from any further annexation by force of Ukraine’s territory.
All countries have an international obligation not to recognise the illegal situation created by Russia, including unlawful recognition of and support for the supposed Donetsk and Luhansk “republics”, and must cooperate to bring it to an end. Sydney Law School supports all measures, where consistent with international law, to bring Russia back into compliance with international law, including through diplomacy, the United Nations, peaceful dispute settlement before the International Court of Justice or other bodies, sanctions and other peaceful countermeasures, and, at its request, military assistance to Ukraine.
We further urge all countries to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law; to uphold international human rights law, international refugee law, and international environmental law; and to ensure full accountability and remedies for war crimes and other international crimes, including through supporting and cooperating with the International Criminal Court’s investigation. It is emphasised that any aggressive threat or use of nuclear weapons by Russia would also violate international law.
We welcome the staunch bipartisan support of the Australian Government and Opposition for supporting Ukraine, upholding international law, providing humanitarian assistance, and protecting refugees from the conflict overseas and in Australia. We encourage Australia to defend the international legal order as staunchly in other situations involving grave violations of international law.
I am proud to be the Dean of a School of scholars and students that have long stood for justice and the rule of law, as imperfect as both those concepts may be in practice.
A collective of Law School scholars initially signed a joint statement, crafted by our distinguished international law scholars, urging all countries to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law.
The Board resolution reframes what was a joint statement signed by individual law scholars to an institutional response.
It is not always a comfortable place to be out front pushing for institutional change, challenging the status quo or even overcoming the inertia around matters considered either as being too remote, political or discomforting. But each time the School acts, there is a reaction – see the School’s Climate Change Declaration (2019), the Statement of the Heart (2021) and Ukraine (2022).
On the same day that the Law School’s resolution passed, the University of Sydney announced several new Fellowships for Ukrainian scholars and PhDs displaced by war.
Dean and Head of Sydney Law School, Professor Simon Bronitt, has stated that his “aspiration is to go further to help and support law students who are writing to me from Europe this week seeking admission to our Law Degree to escape the conflict.”
The Council of Australian Law Deans (Sydney Law School's Dean and Head of School, Professor Simon Bronitt, is a signatory) has also released a powerful statement in response to the humanitarian crises in Australia and beyond to uphold the rule of law and respect human rights.