Crimes against humanity: why the United States accuses Russia of committing them End-shutdown

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One year after Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States has seen enough.

“In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence, we know the legal standards and there is no question: these are crimes against humanity,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at the Munich Security Conference this weekend. .

“All those who have perpetrated these crimes, and their superiors who are complicit in those crimes, will be held accountable.”

The statement marks the strongest accusation yet by the United States as it seeks to punish Moscow for its aggressive war.

The US government declared Last March that members of the Russian armed forces had committed war crimes in Ukraine. President Joe Biden has gone so far as to say that the atrocities committed by Moscow troops qualify as “genocide”.

While the determination of “crimes against humanity” is significant, for now it remains largely symbolic. It does not immediately trigger any specific consequences, nor does it give the US the ability to prosecute Russians involved in the commission of crimes.

However, it could provide International organizationssuch as the International Criminal Court, with evidence to effectively try to prosecute those crimes.

Here’s what you need to know about how these types of crimes are prosecuted on the international stage.

A crime against humanity is defined by the International Criminal Court as an act “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”

This may include, among other things, murder, extermination, torture, enslavement, sexual violence, deportation or forced population transfer, or other inhumane acts.

“We reserve determinations of crimes against humanity for the most heinous crimes,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Saturday. “These acts are not random or spontaneous; They are part of the Kremlin’s widespread and systematic attack on the civilian population of Ukraine.”

Harris in his speech described specific instances that have peppered news clips and official reports.

“First, since the initial days of this unprovoked war, we have witnessed horrific atrocities and war crimes committed by Russian forces,” Harris said.

“Russian forces have carried out a widespread and systemic attack against the civilian population: horrific acts of murder, torture, rape and deportation. Execution-style murders, beatings and electrocution,” he added.

“Russian authorities have forcibly deported hundreds of thousands of people from Ukraine to Russia, including children. Children have been cruelly separated from their families.”

Harris’ speech cited evidence of indiscriminate Russian attacks deliberately targeting civilians, including the bombing of a maternity hospital that killed a pregnant mother and of a theater in Mariupol that killed hundreds of people.

The Vice President spoke of the horrible images of Bucha which showed men and women shot and left to rot in the streets and United Nations reports about a 4-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by a Russian soldier.

As happened when the US government declared Russia committed war crimes last March, it remains to be seen if there will be any accountability and if Russian President Vladimir Putin himself will be forced to take any responsibility.

“We will continue to support the judicial process in Ukraine and the international investigations because justice must be done. Let’s all agree, on behalf of all the victims, known and unknown: justice must be done,” Harris said.

Located in The Hague, the Netherlands, and created by a treaty called the Rome Statute first submitted to the United Nations, the International Criminal Court operates independently.

Most of the countries on Earth, 123 of them, are parties to the treaty, but there are very large and notable exceptions. That is the key to this story, since neither Russia nor Ukraine, nor the United States, are part of the agreement.

The court judges people, not countries, and focuses on those who bear the greatest responsibility: leaders and officials. Although Ukraine is not a member of the court, it previously accepted its jurisdiction. In theory, the accused Russian officials could be dictated by the court. However, the ICC does not conduct trials in absentia, so they would have to be turned over by Russia or arrested outside of Russia. This seems unlikely.

An ICC investigation could affect any diplomatic space for negotiations, as Putin and other alleged perpetrators do not want to risk arrest if they travel outside the country. It could also weaken Putin’s popularity at home, with the Russians losing faith in his leadership.

If justice in general moves slowly, international justice barely moves, investigations at the ICC take many years. Only a handful of convictions have been won.

A preliminary investigation into the hostilities in eastern Ukraine lasted for more than six years, from April 2014 to December 2020. At the time, the prosecutor said there was evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The next steps were held back by the covid-19 pandemic and a lack of resources in the court, which is conducting multiple investigations.

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, presented the accusation of crimes against humanity as an attempt to “demonize” Russia, according to the state news agency TASS.

“We regard such insinuations as an attempt, unprecedented in terms of cynicism, to demonize Russia,” Antonov said this weekend.

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