Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was condemned by world leaders after horrifying images emerged of murdered civilians in the city of Bucha.
Joe Biden led calls for the Russian president to face criminal charges. Speaking to reporters in Washington DC, the President said: “I have been criticized for calling Putin a war criminal. You saw what happened in Bucha, he’s a war criminal. We need to get all the details together so there can be a war crimes trial.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the bloc is “sending investigative teams on the ground to support the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office”, adding: “The perpetrators of these heinous crimes must not go unpunished.”
However, experts have warned that prosecuting war crimes is notoriously complicated, raising doubts as to whether Putin will ever be brought to justice.
What is a war crime?
According to the United Nations (UN) the term “war crimes” includes “violations of international humanitarian law (treaty or custom) that result in individual criminal liability under international law”.
“Unlike the crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity,” the abuses “must always take place in the context of armed conflict, either international or non-international,” according to the intergovernmental organization.
Examples of war crimes listed by the UN include premeditated homicide; torture or inhuman treatment; willfully cause great suffering; extensive destruction and appropriation of property; to compel a prisoner of war to serve in the military of an enemy power; depriving a prisoner of war of the right to a fair trial; unlawful deportation; and hostage taking.
In Ukraine, “investigators and journalists have found what appears to be Evidence of intentional killing of civilians in Bucha” and the area northwest of Kyiv, said the BBC. Ukrainian forces have reported finding “mass graves” and “evidence that civilians were shot dead after their feet and hands were tied”.
Countries around the world had already backed an investigation into the war launched by the International Court of Justice in late February.
Russia has denied war crimes allegations, claiming without providing any evidence that Ukrainian “Nazis” were responsible for the Bucha killings.
Will Russian leaders face war crimes trials?
A “series of unique courts” have tried war crimes since World War II, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the BBC said. Both courts were established to investigate genocides.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also play a key role in upholding the rules of war. But the ICJ “cannot prosecute individuals,” the broadcaster noted.
And while the UN Security Council would be responsible for enforcing an International Court of Justice ruling, Russia, as one of the five permanent members of the Council, could veto any proposed sanctions.
The investigation and prosecution of war crimes could also “take years”, axois reported, “which often leads to frustration among the victims.”
And even if prosecutors investigating the killings in Ukraine “can show that senior officials and/or Putin gave orders or had knowledge to target civilians or other acts that could constitute war crimes,” a trial “cannot be conducted.” be,” unless the officer has been arrested and is in custody.
But acc The economist, “even if the success is likely to be rather limited”, it is “worth a try”. If action is taken, “the court cases will continue and likely cause further setbacks for Russia’s litigation and diplomatic reputation.”
Such a move could also encourage Ukraine’s allies to “find other means of increasing pressure on Moscow” through measures such as “more sanctions” and supplying “deadlier weapons” to Kyiv, the paper added.
Ukrainian leader Zelenskyy yesterday called for justice for Russian atrocities and warned that the Bucha massacre was “just one of many examples of what the occupiers have been doing on our country in the last 41 days”.
“It undermines the entire architecture of global security,” he told the UN Security Council. “It allows them to get away with it, so they destroy whatever they can.”
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/world-news/russia/956337/what-is-a-war-crime What is a war crime?