This article was originally published in Lawfare on April 20, 2022. Read the full article here.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a criminal act: waging aggressive war, the supreme crime for which the Nazis were punished at Nuremberg. And Russian forces have also engaged in other crimes of war: the unremitting shelling and bombing of civilian targets like the martyr city of Mariupol, widespread rape, and the torture and murder of civilians, as seen in Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs as revelations come before the world. With every passing day, Ukrainian suffering continues on a horrific scale. Thousands of civilians have been killed. Many more are maimed. Over 7 million people have been internally displaced. Over 4 million refugees have fled abroad—women, children and the elderly—driven from homes that have been reduced to rubble.
President Biden has branded Vladimir Putin a war criminal and accused Russia of committing genocide. According to Barbara Starr of CNN, the U.S. believes “it will be able to identify the Russian units” that are responsible for atrocities. Already there are discussions and plans in various world capitals for issuing indictments and placing the perpetrators on trial before the Hague. Of course, justice will not come so long as Vladimir Putin is in power, and even if he were dispatched, it is doubtful that a successor regime would allow members of Russian forces to be extradited and put on trial. For now, the invasion has prompted countries in the West to mete out a slate of robust sanctions, quite possibly with more stringent ones to come.
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