“Based on the information currently available, the US government believes that members of the Russian armed forces committed war crimes in Ukraine,” Blinken said.
The exact impact of the charges against Russian troops is difficult to predict at this time, although the symbolism of the statement could theoretically hurt the morale of Russian forces. Individuals accused of war crimes can be tried in various fora such as the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal, but obtaining these individuals’ custody is often difficult, if not impossible.
In presenting the case against Russia, Blinken made it clear repeatedly that the United States views Russian forces as acting on Putin’s orders. The troops, he noted, “have destroyed homes, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping malls and ambulances, killing or wounding thousands of innocent civilians.”
Still, Blinken did not name Putin or anyone else on the war crimes charge. “Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources,” he said. “As with any suspected crime, a court with jurisdiction over the crime has ultimate responsibility for determining criminal guilt in specific cases.”
The ICC has launched its own investigation into Russian actions in Ukraine, as have other bodies, including the Biden administration. But as an example of how delicate this area of international law is, the United States itself has not always recognized the authority of the International Criminal Court.
Beth Van Schaack, the Biden administration’s ambassador for global criminal justice, told reporters in an appearance after the release of Blinken’s statement that US officials will even consider domestic courts to hear war crimes cases.
Asked whether the US assessment could be used to prosecute Putin, Van Schaack said, “I think that’s a question left to a court that has appropriate jurisdiction over those involved in the conflict.” “
Nonetheless, she found that chains of command play a role in such contexts.
“The doctrine of superior responsibility allows commanders to be held accountable for the actions of their subordinates if they are aware of those actions and do not prevent them in advance or punish them afterwards,” she said.
Also this week, Blinken formally declared that Myanmar’s military committed genocide against Rohingya Muslims in 2017 and offered new US support for international court cases against these forces.
https://www.politico.com/news/2022/03/23/us-accuses-russian-military-war-crimes-ukraine-00019746?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication The US officially accuses the Russian military of committing war crimes in Ukraine