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The bombing of the maternity hospital, the shelling of houses, the fire on the fleeing refugees, and the destruction of any infrastructure that provides life for innocent civilians … war crimes under international law.
Anyone involved in the chain of command who gave the orders – up to the head of state – can and should be blamed. That is Russian President Vladimir Putin should be charged with war crimes.
No question about who gave the orders. The invasion of Ukraine and the brutal bombing campaign cannot be blamed on Fr. unworthy Russian general. It was organized and run by Putin himself. He acknowledged this in his manic vows to destroy his alleged enemies in neighboring Ukraine.
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Historically, the collection of indictments has been difficult and lengthy. Criminals hide their crimes, and witnesses do not want to speak out for fear for their lives. But atrocities in Ukraine are different.
Every day, the world watches in real time many war crimes committed by military forces that control Putin. Thanks to modern technology, evidence was collected by journalists with cameras, as well as Ukrainians on mobile phones or other devices. Satellite images confirm death and destruction.
The collection and authentication of convicting evidence is no longer an obstacle as it once was. It has already been transmitted electronically worldwide and saved. We watched it with our own eyes.
Terrifying videos of the explosions, photos of mutilated bodies of women and children, photos of mass graves and personal reports of those who watched the massacre in horror are clear evidence.
About 1,200 civilians were killed in Mariupol alone. This figure seems to be growing by the hour. The names of the victims and how they were killed by Putin’s heavily armed troops have been carefully recorded.
The UN must set up a special tribunal, just as it did with the atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
A total of 18 health facilities in Ukraine were bombed as a result of Russian pressure. Shops, schools, apartments, orphanages, markets, pharmacies and private businesses were destroyed. The measure of human suffering and bloodshed is honored in burning images and documents.
Putin’s crimes fall into three separate but interrelated categories, enshrined in international law.
The first is called “crimes against humanity.” It is defined as “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.” Invasion of a sovereign nation without provocation and deliberate killing of non-combatants, including women and children, clearly qualifies. Just like Putin’s use of cluster bombs and his recognized deployment of thermobaric explosives that rip open the lungs of any civilian population nearby.
The second is known as “war crimes”. They also include the deliberate killing of civilians, inhuman treatment, destruction of property and the deliberate infliction of great suffering. The barbarism of Putin’s military action meets this definition. Millions of civilians fled as entire communities were destroyed in indiscriminate bombings, destroying their lives and livelihoods.
The third crime is defined as “crimes of aggression.” This includes any unwarranted attacks or invasions by the armed forces, bombing, military occupation of the territory and annexations. Again, this was established.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague (Netherlands) has announced the launch of an investigation into war crimes. This may sound impressive, but the court’s track record is not. The Interior Ministry is known to falter with inertia, dysfunction, weak leadership, endless disputes over jurisdiction and weak prosecution.
It is best for the United Nations to bypass the Interior Ministry and set up a special tribunal, as has been done with regard to the mass atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. In this case, 161 people were charged with their crimes, including former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Yes, Russia would veto the creation of a special tribunal as a result of a five-member UN Security Council vote. But the General Assembly has the right to override the right of veto under a rather vague provision called resolution 377. Language gives sufficient freedom.
Voting at the United Nations should be conducted with the sending and organization of a criminal tribunal. As the evidence already exists, Putin and his allies could be charged soon.
Bringing Putin to justice for his heinous crimes is a more unpleasant affair. The tribunal itself will not have the right of the police to arrest him in Russia, where he is under the protection of the dictator – for now.
That is, it will be for the Russian people. Milosevic’s case is instructive. Mass anti-war demonstrations against his brutality eventually ousted him as about 200,000 members of his military left him. Milosevic was arrested by his men and taken to a special tribunal for trial.
The same fate could befall Putin if Russian citizens grow tired of his authoritarian rule and the suppression of their human rights. Due to the impending economic catastrophe, they may soon rebel against it.
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If Russians continue to suffer the dire consequences of their own financial situation and if living conditions deteriorate to unbearable levels, anger at Putin could grow exponentially. Their willingness to endure a tyrant who has showered Russia’s neighbor with death and terror in his desire for power could reach a tipping point.
Desperate conditions deserve the desperate actions of the people. Revolutions drive poverty and hunger. In the last century in Russia it happened twice. History could and should repeat itself.
There is no doubt that Putin is an evil dictator who continues to commit atrocities in Ukraine. No reasonable person would argue otherwise.
Putin is clearly guilty of the heinous war crimes I have described. And no, I will not give him a presumption of innocence. But a special tribunal will.
Time is of the essence. Bringing Putin and his comrades to justice must be a top priority.
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