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Friday, May 27, 2022

3 presidents were tried… What are war crimes?

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The International Criminal Court’s indictments against Russia over the war in Ukraine have highlighted the term war crimes and genocide.

And on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden called his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, a “war criminal” as a result of the Russian military operation in Ukraine.

But declaring someone a war criminal is not just uttering words; There is a set of definitions and processes that define who is a war criminal and how he should be punished, according to the Associated Press.

The White House has been avoiding using this characterization with Putin, saying it requires an international investigation and trial, and after Biden used the word, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president’s words were “from your heart,” reiterating his statements that there is a process to make a formal decision.

Today, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told EU lawmakers that “they should designate Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal.”

“I call on all members of the European Parliament to classify Putin as a war criminal,” Reznikov said via video link. He cited examples, including what he said was “a Russian airstrike yesterday, Wednesday, on a theater that housed 1,200 women and children,” he said.

In common usage, however, the phrase has taken on a generic meaning as a generic term referring to a human being who commits atrocities.

Investigations into Putin’s actions have already begun, and the United States and 44 other countries are working together to investigate possible violations and abuses, after the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to establish a commission of inquiry. The International Criminal Court, an independent body based in the Netherlands, is conducting another investigation.

It is still in its infancy, said David Crane, who has worked on war crimes for decades and served as attorney general for the United Nations Special Court for Sierra Leone, which tried former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

Crane currently chairs the Global Accountability Network, which works with the World Court and the United Nations, among other institutions.

With the beginning of the war, the network formed a task force to collect criminal information on war crimes. It is also preparing a draft indictment template against Putin, and an indictment for Putin is expected to be issued within a year, knowing that there is no statute of limitations in this regard.

What is a war crime?

War crimes are generally defined as crimes that violate the laws and customs of war.

The definition derives from the 1949 Geneva Conventions and is based on the idea that individuals can be held responsible for the actions of a state or its military.

There are many acts that constitute war crimes, including: taking hostages, torturing or inhumanely treating prisoners of war, forcing children to fight, and attacking civilians.

Neither civilians nor infrastructure essential to their survival may be deliberately targeted.

Certain types of weapons, such as antipersonnel landmines and chemical or biological weapons, are also prohibited because of the indiscriminate suffering they cause.

War crimes differ from genocide, the deliberate attempt to destroy a specific group of people, and crimes against humanity, which include the murder, rape or persecution of a group.

Under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, war crimes are defined as: intentional killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, deliberately causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; widespread destruction and confiscation of property, without military necessity justifying that and in an illegal and arbitrary manner.

Also defined as compelling a prisoner of war or other protected person to serve in the forces of an enemy power, willful deprivation of a prisoner of war or other protected person of the right to a fair and orderly trial, deportation or transfer illegal acts or confinement and hostage taking.

Who is a war criminal?

The term applies to anyone who violates a set of rules adopted by world leaders known as the Law of Armed Conflict. These rules govern the behavior of states in times of war.

Those rules have been modified and expanded over the past century, building on the Geneva Conventions after World War II and protocols added later.

The rules are intended to protect people not involved in combat and those who are no longer able to fight, including civilians such as: doctors and nurses, wounded soldiers, and prisoners of war.

Treaties and protocols make it clear who can be attacked and with what weapons; Bans certain weapons, including chemical and biological.

So-called “serious breaches” of the conventions that constitute war crimes include intentional killing, widespread destruction, and the appropriation of property without justifiable military necessity. Other war crimes include: deliberate attacks on civilians, use of excessive force, human protection and hostage taking.

The International Criminal Court also judges crimes against humanity committed in the context of “a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.” This includes murder, extermination, forced relocation, torture, rape, and sexual slavery.

Leaders can be held legally responsible if they ordered, even knew or were in a position to know about crimes without doing anything to prevent them.

ways of justice

Broadly speaking, there are four tracks to investigate war crimes in particular, although each has its limitations. The first would be through the International Criminal Court, and the second would be if the United Nations transformed its work in the investigation committee into a mixed international criminal court for war crimes.

The third option is to create a judicial council or tribunal to try the accused through a group of interested or interested countries, such as NATO, the European Union and the United States. An example is the military tribunals in Nuremberg after World War II against the Nazi leaders.

Finally, some countries have their own laws to prosecute war crimes; In Germany, for example, they are already investigating the war in Ukraine. The United States has no such law, but the Justice Department has a special section that focuses on acts such as international genocide, torture, child soldiers, and female genital mutilation.

Have you tested the leaders of the countries in the past?

Yes, from the post-World War II tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo to modern day ad hoc tribunals, top leaders have been put on trial for their actions in countries like Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda.

Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic appeared before a United Nations tribunal in The Hague to stir up bloody conflict with the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. He died in his cell before the tribunal reached a verdict.

His Bosnian Serb ally Radovan Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military commander General Ratko Mladic have been successfully tried and are now serving life sentences.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was also sentenced to 50 years in prison after being found guilty of sponsoring atrocities in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Former Chadian President Hissene Habré, who died last year, was the first former head of state convicted of crimes against humanity in an African court and sentenced to life in prison.

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