Investigating war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine
Victims of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine deserve justice, and the world is working to make that happen. The United States and its allies support international institutions as they investigate and examine atrocities committed in Ukraine since Russia’s forces invaded in February 2022. “This is a war of aggression and territorial conquest that has included widespread war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice on April 19. Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General said in April it had registered 80,000 potential war crimes since February 2022.
The secretary of state determined in February that members of Russia’s forces and other Russian officials committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, including:
- Execution-style killing of men and women.
- Torture of people held in detention.
- Rape of Ukrainian women and girls.
- Forcible deportation of Ukrainian citizens to Russia, including thousands of children.
“These acts are not random or spontaneous; they are part of the Kremlin’s widespread and systematic attack against Ukraine’s civilian population,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Several international mechanisms are reviewing allegations of war crimes, including a U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.
In March, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights. The court said there are reasonable grounds to believe that both are responsible for the illegal deportation and illegal transfer of children from Ukraine into Russia.
In addition, Ukraine has called for the establishment of a tribunal to address the crime of aggression. The court would be rooted in Ukrainian law with international elements. It would be located somewhere outside Ukraine, such as The Hague. The U.S. has pledged to work with Ukraine and other partners toward establishing the court.
Van Schaack said the tribunal would complement work underway at the newly launched International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression in The Hague. The center collects evidence that could be used in prosecutions.
“Permitting impunity for Russia’s malign conduct will embolden other actors to engage in similar blatant violations of state sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence,” Van Schaack said.