Even wars and armed conflicts are subject to rules, as defined by international law. Chief among these are prohibitions against committing war crimes. For one, warring parties are forbidden from deliberately targeting civilians, civilian objects such as hospitals and civilian dwellings, and infrastructure that is vital to their survival, such as food storage and delivery systems. Likewise banned is the indiscriminate use of weapons.
Nonetheless, violations of the law of war have been reported in Ukraine as far back as the run-up to Russia’s attempted annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
In late March, the United States Government assessed that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine. The U.S. Government indicated it will continue to track reports of war crimes and share such information with allies, partners, and international institutions and organizations.
In mid-May, the U.S. Government announced that it is funding the newly launched Conflict Observatory, a program that will use satellite imagery and other technical means to collect information about possible war crimes and other atrocities by Russia’s forces as they wage President Putin’s brutal war of choice against Ukraine.
“The program will capture, analyze, and make publicly available open-source information and evidence of atrocities, human rights abuses, and harm to civilian infrastructure, including Ukraine’s cultural heritage,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.
“The information collected by the Conflict Observatory will be a resource for the world to see the deplorable and brutal actions of Russia’s forces against the Ukrainian people. It will shine a light on atrocities and is intended to contribute to eventual prosecutions in Ukraine’s domestic courts, courts in third-party countries, U.S. courts, and other relevant tribunals. It will provide information to refute Russia’s disinformation campaigns and expand the range of our and our partners’ accountability mechanisms.”
The U.S. government plans to support the platform in part through the President’s recently announced $320 million European Democratic Resilience Initiative, or EDRI.
Indeed, the Conflict Observatory program is one of many U.S. Government efforts designed to assist with future accountability for Russia’s horrific actions.
“However long it takes,” said Spokesperson Price, “we are committed to seeing that justice is served.”