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This presentation attempts to explain why states in the Global South, despite their decades-long commitment to both the prohibition of the use of force and the crime of aggression, have proven remarkably unwilling to support concrete efforts to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. To do so, I will defend two interrelated claims. The first is that Russia’s legal rationales for invading Ukraine are within the boundaries of plausible argument because – and only because – the West has for decades systematically ignored the South concerning the use of force. The second is that the lack of support for prosecuting Russian leaders for aggression is at least partially due to the West systematically ignoring the South concerning both the definition of aggression and the creation of institutions to prosecute it.

Professor Kevin Jon Heller

Kevin Jon Heller is Professor of International Law and Security at the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Military Studies. He currently serves as a Special Adviser to the ICC Prosecutor on War Crimes and is an Academic Member of Doughty Street Chambers in London. His books include The Nuremberg Military Tribunals and the Origins of International Criminal Law (OUP, 2011) and four co-edited volumes: The Handbook of Comparative Criminal Law (Stanford, 2010), The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (OUP, 2013), the Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law (OUP, 2018), and Contingency in International Law: On the Possibility of Different Legal Histories (OUP, 2021). He has been a member of the international-law blog Opinio Juris for more than 17 years.