WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s been a little more than seven months since Russia invaded Ukraine. Throughout this conflict, reports and stories of war crimes and other atrocities against the Ukrainian people have circulated. A recent Congressional hearing focused on holding Russia accountable for these crimes. Just a warning: some of the video and material may be disturbing.
The war in Ukraine has revealed horrifying situations, especially against civilians. A maternity ward was bombed, cluster munitions hit a preschool, recently a UN Commission found that Russian soldiers have sexually assaulted and tortured children in Ukraine.
“I have interviewed hundreds of civilians who survived in Russian captivity and they told me the horrible stories of they had been beaten, raped, caged in wooden boxes, their limbs had been cut off,” said Oleksandra Matviichuck, with the Center for Civil Liberties.
Reports of war crimes continue to climb.
“Most recently as Ukraine has retaken territory to the east, Ukrainian soldiers discovered a series of mass graves in the city of Izium,” said Rep. William Keating (D- MA). “So far, investigators estimate that around 500 soldiers and civilians alike are buried in mass graves in Izium with many soldiers found shot with signs of torture and their hands tied behind their backs.”
Although it may not seem like it but there are rules to war. They are part of a collection of treaties in the Geneva Conventions and other international laws and this is where it can get complicated to hold Russia, including President Vladimir Putin, accountable for these crimes.
One way is through the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC was set up to prosecute crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. According to the BBC, a lack of enforcement from the court can be an issue. The ICC doesn’t have their own police force so it relies on individual countries to arrest suspects and since Russia is not a member of the Court, it’s unlikely to extradite any suspects.
“Therefore, the creation of special tribunal, special international tribunal to investigate and punish the crime of aggression is essential for Ukraine,” said Andriy Kostin, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General is also asking for additional weapons to liberate Ukrainian cities under Russian control to get a full picture of other potential war crimes.