Theater in Mariupol bombed by Russian military

Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol destroyed by Russian military. The word "children" was written in big chalk letters in front of the building, so the Russian military would avoid bombing it. Russia destroyed it anyway. Source:Ukrainianinstitute 

Analysis, Russian Aggression

Article by: Olena Mukhina
Edited by: Matt Wickham
The massacre of hundreds of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, the destruction of the city Mariupol where the number of civilian victims may never be fully known, a missile strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk and on Vinnytsia city center, both with a heavy civilian toll. All these events have two things in common, they are all war crimes, and they were committed under the direct orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military personnel. Here is what Ukrainian civil society and authorities are doing to set up a Tribunal for Putin to punish Putin and his war criminals.

 

A Russian missile strike at the Kramatorsk train station, depicting Russian War Crimes

Russian war crimes: a missile strike at the Kramatorsk train station left many dead and injured, including children. Source:Pravda.ua

Russia’s full-blown war against Ukraine is marked by numerous atrocities and war crimes. The Ukrainian government estimates that 12,000 – 28,000 civilians have been killed and 7,500 wounded since 24 February 2022; this number is bound to rise. The number of Russian war crimes against peaceful civilians is so large, including forcing locals into filtration camps and launching a deportation campaign, that Ukraine called the international community to declare Russia’s actions genocide.

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Particularly gruesome was Russia’s ostensible deliberate murder of at least 50 Ukrainian POWs in Olenivka prison, located on Russian-occupied territory. Russia’s pummeling of civilian infrastructure adds to the daily toll of misery, killing civilians and destroying cities.

International courts and human rights organizations are now assisting in the investigation of the atrocities to see Putin, his cronies, and soldiers behind bars and to bring justice to war victims.

Russia continued to kill civilians despite the decision of the International Court of Justice

Ukrainians dream of seeing Putin in The Hague for the thousands of civilian victims of Russia’s war, including killing 362 children and injuring 716.

Two courts that can help Ukraine stop Russian aggression are located in The Hague. The International Court of Justice settles disputes between states and gives advisory opinions on legal questions referred to by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies. The International Criminal Court investigates crimes per the Rome Statute and sentences individuals for war crimes.

Both courts are currently investigating Russia’s war crimes.

President of Ukraine held a meeting with the International Criminal Court Prosecutor discussing Russian war crimes.

The President of Ukraine held a meeting with the International Criminal Court Prosecutor to discuss Russian war crimes. Source:president.gov.ua

On 16 March, the UN court ordered Russia to cease its invasion, as it hadn’t seen any evidence to support the Kremlin’s justification for the war. Still, Russia ignored the ruling and sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General, stating that it began the war against Ukraine to protect itself, so the International Court of Justice could not start an investigation under the Convention as it didn’t have jurisdiction in this case. The same day, Russian forces dropped a bomb on Mariupol’s Drama Theater. These bombs are thought to have killed 600 civilians who hid there from constant Russian shellings in the besieged city.

“People want to be heard and to share their experiences. They come to us expecting a fast response, justice, and recognition of war crimes. Unfortunately, it cannot be done so quickly because cases must be proven in court. Criminals must be held accountable for their actions.

 

The fact that we are documenting Russian assaults, and the scale of destruction of them, it will bring a magnitude of devastation and will have an impact in the future.

 

Finally, crimes of the Soviet Union’s reincarnation could also be recognized. Not only those committed in 2022, but those committed during the previous 70 years. We want the rest of the world to impose sanctions on Russia and restrict its opportunities.

 

The international tribunals want to punish Russia’s top officials, but Ukraine intends to pursue every war crime and hold every Russian soldier accountable for atrocities.

 

We must devise a special mechanism to use Russia’s frozen assets to isolate every war criminal from the earth. The question is who will receive new funds first – Ukraine, Syrian refugees, or European businesses affected by Russia’s war.

 

This mechanism will be formed, but Ukraine must recognize that we are not the only victims of Russia,” Romantsova stated.

Why does Ukraine want to set up a special tribunal for Russia?

Dmytro Kuleba speaking to reporters at a press conference discussing Russian war crimes

Dmytro Kuleba speaking to reporters at a press conference, discussing Russian war crimes. 

During his speech at The Hague on 14 July, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba suggested creating a Special Tribunal to prosecute Russian military and political administrations for crimes committed in Ukraine.

However, it may appear that the investigations launched by the two top international courts will be sufficient to prove Russia is a terrorist state and begin criminal proceedings.

So, how will the new tribunal help victims of the war in Ukraine

“First of all, any special mechanisms designed to hold criminals accountable for their actions must be set in addition to the ICC investigation. ​

 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where necessary, prosecutes individuals accused of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression.

 

But the ICC has restrictions in launching a probe into crimes of aggression in Ukraine – the necessary documents, which would give the ICC the jurisdiction to consider such cases in Ukraine, have not been signed.

 

The new special tribunal will include the crime of aggression case,” the Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group representative said.

Also, ICC can consider only a small number of cases – only about 15, but Ukraine wants justice for all victims of the war.

The collection of documented Russian war crimes could serve as the foundation for the legal recognition of genocide in Ukraine.

Labeling Russian war crimes as genocide

In an op-ed for Der Spiegel on 24 July, Dmytro Kuleba encouraged the world to officially label Russian acts as genocide. He called attention to Putin’s statements that Ukraine and Russia are one people and that Ukraine is a complete product of the Soviet era, while true Ukrainian sovereignty is only possible in partnership with Russia or is destroyed in the war.

On 14 April, The Ukrainian parliament recognized that genocide had been committed on the territory of Ukraine and underlined that atrocities in Bucha, Borodianka, Hostomel, and Irpin are the most visible evidence of that. Later, the United Nations Human Rights Council established an international commission to investigate genocide in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials slam Amnesty’s International accusations of Ukrainian Army

As of today, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Canada, Ireland, and the Czech Republic officially declared torture, rape, looting, and killing civilians – an attempt to deliberately target civilians to commit genocide.

Earlier, US President Joe Biden said, “I called it genocide because it’s become clearer and clearer that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian. The evidence is mounting.” He added that, in his opinion, Russia was organizing genocide in Ukraine, but “let the lawyers decide, internationally, whether or not it qualifies.”

It is necessary to understand – no legislation in the world permits foreign officers to enter Russia, arrest Putin, and bring him or war criminals among Russian military personnel before the court in The Hague.

However, decisions protecting victims of the war in Ukraine ruled by ICJ, ICC, and the national tribunals will make the lives of Russian leadership more difficult due to the loss of reputation, economic recession, huge reparational payments, the freeze of assets, eventual protests in the country and long-term isolation.

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Edited by: Matt Wickham
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