From the earliest days of the Russian invasion of its neighbor, Russia unleashed a campaign of gross and systematic violations against Ukraine’s civilian population. An avalanche of evidence supports thousands of reports of crimes against humanity and war crimes, ranging from attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, to appalling violence against civilians and outright murder of Ukrainian noncombatants.
When it comes to justice and accountability for these crimes, there are five pathways to justice, said United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack at a special briefing.
First, there is the International Criminal Court.
“We’ve seen the prosecutor make his first move, successfully achieving two arrest warrants for very senior figures within Russia, focused on the deportation of children from Ukraine and temporarily controlled or occupied areas into Russia, often to very far-flung places, and subjecting those children to adoption or other situations notwithstanding that they have loved ones, guardians, families who want them back.”
“Second … are cases within the Ukrainian national courts,” said Ambassador Van Schaack.
“The Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, which is a joint initiative of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, is fully operational on the ground. We have deployed a number of experts to work side by side with their Ukrainian counterparts to help sift through the now tens of thousands of recorded potential war crimes and other atrocities.”
Third, European countries are opening investigations for those cases when individual perpetrators may end up within their borders or within their jurisdictional reach.
Fourth, an international center that will support nations already building cases against senior Russian leaders for the crime of aggression resulting from the country’s invasion of Ukraine, opened in The Hague on July 3.
And finally, “The [United States] Attorney General has stood up a War Crimes Accountability Team – War CAT it’s called,” said Ambassador Van Schaack.
“We have a dedicated war crimes accountability team that is looking at cases that might have some kind of a U.S. nexus, and be able to proceed here, in U.S. courts, under the new legal authorities that Congress has provided.”
“If Russia had not chosen to invade its sovereign neighbor, we would not see the terrible war crimes happening on the ground,” said Ambassador Van Shaack. “And so, it’s quite important for Ukraine to see this crime prosecuted.”