A View from Afar – In this podcast, political scientist Paul Buchanan and Selwyn Manning analyse how it is now clear atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians is widespread, appears systematic, and may be coldly planned by Russian leaders as troops withdraw toward the east. But can justice be achieved?
The crimes committed in Ukraine could be defined by four categories:
- War crimes (which includes the targeting of civilians),
- Crimes against humanity (which crosses a scale because it is systematic and essentially focusses on individuals),
- Genocide (where groups are targeted),
- Crime of aggression (which is the waging of an illegal war).
This week, Professor of Law, Philippe Sands, of the University College London told PBS: “In the present circumstances where Russia has waged a war that is manifestly illegal, it is plain to me that the crime of aggression has been perpetrated. And, the significance of that crime is it is the only one with any degree of certainty that it reaches the top-table, Mr Putin, Mr Lavrov, the Defence Minister, senior military, senior intelligence, senior political leaders.“With all the other crimes, the challenge that you have got is linking the terrible images that we have just seen with the leadership at the top. And, that can be very difficult.”
Professor Sands has joined around 100 others, including former leaders around the world, calling for a Special Criminal Tribunal, that would sit alongside the ICC in The Hague, and investigate in parallel the crime of aggression. (Ref. 14:31 PBS April 4, 2022, https://youtu.be/TbX8Wl4HEh4 )
Professor of Law, Yvonne McDermott Rees, of the University of Swansea told DW News: “Let’s say, theoretically we have a trial before the International Criminal Court, the ICC seeks to prosecute those who are deemed most responsible.
“And there are a number of modes of liability set out in statute of the International Criminal Court. These include ordering, inducing, soliciting these crimes to be committed. But importantly, in the case of Vladimir Putin, there is superior responsibility.” (Ref. DW, April 5, 2022, https://youtu.be/1xIOw21BUgc )
But as Paul Buchanan and Selwyn Manning discuss; it is challenging in the extreme to bring a leader of a nuclear power to justice.
- Were the atrocities identified a deliberate, systematic attempt to erase Ukrainian populations and culture?
- Were they crimes committed by troops so as to cover their retreat, by killing and leaving dead Ukrainians behind, so that the Ukrainian armed forces were forced to stop and to attend to them?
- What of enforcement capability, where authoritarian leaders will oppose any attempt to bring anyone but the lowest level “rogue” personnel to justice. Is it satisfactory if recourse and prosecution becomes a mostly Western (mostly European) affair?
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