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How, if at all, could Russia be punished for war crimes in Ukraine?


RRussian troops retreating from Kiev left behind Fr. landscape of atrocities. The mayor of Matyzhin, a suburb of the capital, was found blindfolded and shot dead, apparently by Russian forces, along with his family. An eyewitness told Human Rights Watch that Russian soldiers threw a smoke grenade into a basement in Vorzel near Irpen and then shot the woman and her child when they were born. Another saw the military gather five men in nearby Bucha, force them to kneel and pull their shirts over their heads, and shoot one in the head in front of 40 witnesses. In general, said on April 3 the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, 410 civilians was killed around Kiev. There is much more to come.

New evidence of Russian atrocities has provoked repeated condemnation. “Genocide,” called the President of Ukraine and the Prime Minister of Poland. US President Joe Biden told what happened Bucha was a war crime and then Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has to face an international tribunal for it. The un The Secretary-General asked for another investigation (several are already under way), and Ukraine said it would set it up with es. The former un the chief prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda has demanded that Putin be issued an international arrest warrant. For its part, Russia said that all this was falsified, and then blamed the Ukrainians, demanding un A meeting of the Security Council discussing the “disgusting provocation of Ukrainian radicals in Bucha.” It is possible that there were or will be atrocities by Ukrainian forces, although not on such a scale. But Ukraine is expected to investigate them, unlike Russia. In this particular case, the decomposition of the bodies of the victims shows that they were killed long before the Ukrainian troops returned to Bucha.

Evidence from the battlefield confirms that the Russians committed at least three types of crimes during the war. The first is war crimes. The Geneva Conventions, signed by Russia, define war crimes as premeditated murder, deliberate infliction of great suffering, deliberate attack on civilians, and destruction or misappropriation of property. Extraordinary shootings in Bucha would be war crimes. So it would be the bombing of the Mariupol Theater which was the city’s largest air shelter and had a Russian word for children written in large enough letters to be seen from the sky. The Geneva Conventions define international legal obligations in all hostilities. It does not matter that Russia has not formally declared war on Ukraine.

Second, Russia’s invasion was in itself a crime, no matter how it was carried out. It is a crime of aggression. This is enshrined in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (icc), who try individuals for actions under international law. The icc defines aggression, which includes invasion, military occupation, annexation of lands, bombing, blockade of ports and other actions contrary to the UN Charter. Finally, the scale of Russian action around Kyiv (and elsewhere) insists that Russia is guilty of crimes against humanity. The icc defines this as participation and knowledge of “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population”. Thousands of Ukrainians were killed, more than 4 million deported.

Proceedings to bring the perpetrators to justice have begun in several international courts. The two made initial decisions in favor of Ukraine. In the first, March 16, the International Court of Justice (icj), which is considering interstate disputes, ruled that Russia would “immediately suspend the hostilities it initiated” on 24 February. The issue, which was considered in court, seemed secret: Ukraine said that Russia’s argument that it had launched an invasion to prevent the genocide of Ukrainians in Russian-speaking separatist regions was false, according to ungenocide convention. The significance of the ruling was not only that the court agreed with Ukraine, but also in the fact that it expanded its conclusion to demand the full withdrawal of Russia.

Another decision was made by the European Court of Human Rights, which is part of the Council of Europe, the government’s human rights body. On April 1, she reaffirmed an earlier ruling that Russia should “refrain from military attacks on civilians and civilian objects, including … schools and hospitals.” Ukraine has filed a lawsuit under European human rights law. The court added that Russia had done the wrong thing by forcing refugees from Mariupol to flee to Russia instead of the place they had chosen.

But it is one thing to make decisions, it is another to bring any Russian to the international court, not to mention him head of state. Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe on March 16 for invading and stopped responding to European Court demands. Since 2016, the country has not recognized the government icc, or. This does not preclude icc a prosecutor who initiates a case or issues arrest warrants for individual Russians. But if Russia ignores the warrant, the next step will be to transfer the case to the State Court UN The Security Council – and Russia could then use its veto. Russia accepts the powers of another international court, t icjat least theoretically. But in practice he did not appear in court and (obviously) ignored his ruling. As with iccthe only way to perform icj rulings through un Security Council. Thus, if Mr Putin remains in power, or even if he resigns but continues to be defended by his successors, international justice will not take place.

The trials will continue and are likely to bring further setbacks to Russia’s legal and diplomatic position. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s allies will have to look for other ways to increase pressure on Putin. Among them are more sanctions and more deadly weapons for Ukraine.

Even before the horrors of Russia’s retreat from Kiev, nato the allies began to offer heavier weapons. The New York Times April 1 reported that the Biden administration plans to transfer Soviet T-72 tanks to strengthen Ukrainian forces in the Donbass region. These will be the first tanks delivered to Ukraine by America, which has previously insisted that its military assistance is purely defensive. On March 16, Britain began supplying Ukrainians with its advanced Starstreak anti-aircraft missile; On April 1, a video showed Starstreak shooting down a Russian helicopter. It is likely that other modern weapons will be offered soon. That’s right another round of sanctionsfifth overall.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council of Heads of Government es countries, says new sanctions are “on the way”. These will include simple ones such as closing cracks, imposing more restrictions on individual oligarchs, banning Russian ships es ports and more complete isolation of Russian banks cut off from the fast international payment system. But this time es may also include an embargo on energy supplies, something long demanded Mr. Zelensky but resisted gas imports es states. This was called by the Minister of Defense of Germany, the largest buyer of gas in Europe es to discuss ban on Russian gas imports. French President Emmanuel Macron has gone further and said he would support a ban on the entry of all Russian oil and coal into the country. es, the position was also taken by the leader of the junior partner in the Italian government. Like Germany, Italy is dependent on Russian energy. Further energy restrictions are already coming into force: April 3 Lithuania became the first es the country has banned the import of Russian gas. Russia’s war crimes seem to have strengthened Ukraine’s Western allies. They seem to be saying, in the words of Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State of America: “We can’t faint from this. We can’t normalize it. ”

Editor’s note: This story was updated on April 5 to make it clearer that Russia is unable to prevent allegations of war crimes by the Interior Ministry, although this may delay further action.

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