Headline RoundupMarch 23rd, 2022

Perspectives: US Says Russia Committed War Crimes

Summary from the AllSides News Team

The U.S. has formally declared that Russia has committed war crimes during the invasion of Ukraine. Is the label justified?

President Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal last week, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the U.S. "assesses that members of Russia's forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine." Though Russia says its troops aren't attacking civilians, reports across the spectrum have highlighted apparent Russian strikes on civilian areas across Ukraine, including hospitals and places of shelter. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules on disputes between nations, and Ukraine has begun a case against Russia. But as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, which enforces ICJ cases, Russia could veto any proposal to sanction it.

The typical left-right divide wasn't as apparent in perspectives on Putin's "war criminal" status. Some on both sides agreed with the war criminal designation; others said the label should only be used after Putin is convicted, which many framed as unlikely since neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). Others on both sides argued that regardless of Putin's crimes, the U.S. was hypocritical to use the label against him when it has a history of killing civilians in military operations in the Middle East and elsewhere. Some highlighted calls to establish a one-off tribunal to prosecute Putin, similar to the post-WWII Nuremburg Trials that prosecuted German leaders who supported the Nazi dictatorship.

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