Amnesty International: Putin must face war crimes charges

Sergey Guneev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

While much of Amnesty International’s domestic work inside of the United States tends to tilt toward liberal causes, it turns out that they’ve had some boots on the ground in Ukraine collecting evidence and testimony about Russian war crimes and atrocities during the invasion. The media outlets still operating in the country have already provided more than sufficient evidence that the Russian troops have been committing atrocities on a daily basis, but AI has been piling up some stories that slipped through the cracks. Their conclusion is that the Russian forces must be held accountable and face trial for war crimes. But they go one step further, saying that those who must face justice include those “up the chain of command,” with an obvious implication that Vladimir Putin is ultimately responsible. That all sounds great, but how do they plan on actually dragging anyone into court? (Associated Press)

Amnesty International says it has documented extensive war crimes by Russian forces in communities around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, including arbitrary executions, bombardments of residences and torture.

“The pattern of crimes committed by Russian forces that we have documented includes both unlawful attacks and willful killings of civilians,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said in a statement on Friday. “It is vital that all those responsible, including up the chain of command, are brought to justice.”

The organization said it collected evidence and testimony in eight cities near Kyiv, including Bucha.

While the abuses have been widespread, the scenes in Bucha were probably among the worst. At least 1,235 civilian bodies have been documented in the Bucha region, many showing obvious signs of execution and torture. One man was shot dead in his kitchen while his wife and children hid in the basement. The Russians then made the wife bury him in a shallow grave in their own backyard.

Amnesty International also collected discarded 7N12 armor-piercing rounds with a 9x39mm black tips. These are known to be used by elite Russian military units and they are able to kill civilians lucky enough to have obtained body armor. Similar stories abound throughout the region, with some residential areas being almost entirely vacant except for the trail of dead bodies and mass graves.

The group wants to see the Russian perpetrators and their leaders taken before the International Criminal Court. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the International Criminal Court because such bodies shouldn’t be able to supersede the criminal justice systems of individual nations. But what if the country in question clearly has no intent to bring its own people to justice? When United States soldiers are accused of criminal behavior in foreign nations, they face a court-martial and are punished when found guilty.

Russia continues to deny that any of this is happening, so they obviously won’t be taking their own soldiers (to say nothing of Putin himself) to trial. If there has ever been an example supporting the use of the International Criminal Court in the modern era, we’re watching it play out right now in Ukraine. But the court is essentially toothless if the nation in question isn’t a participating and cooperating member. They have no ability to send anyone to round up Putin and his troops and bring them to The Hague in handcuffs. The best they could do is find them guilty in absentia and perhaps prevent them from traveling to cooperative nations where they might be apprehended.

In other news, reports are circulating this morning that another major Russian naval asset may have been sunk or at least taken significant damage. If so, it was done with drones and/or missiles supplied by the United States or our allies.

Russia has long been considered to have one of the world’s premier military forces. But at the moment they certainly aren’t acting like they do.