U.S. Accuses Russia Of Crimes Against Humanity In Ukraine—Here’s What That Means


The U.S. has determined that Russia has committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday, with accusations Russia has continued a “widespread and systemic” attack against civilians ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Key Facts

Harris, in an address to the Munich Security Council Saturday, cited civilian deaths in an attack on Mariupol, mass deportations of Ukrainian children, “gruesome acts” of murder, torture, rape, as well as “execution-style killings, beatings and electrocution” of Ukrainian civilians by Russian military forces.

The Biden Administration will continue to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity, Harris said, adding the perpetrators and “their superiors” will be “held to account.”

Accusations of crimes against humanity are mostly symbolic, as they do not trigger any international consequences—including in the U.S.—because “crimes against humanity” are not officially codified in any international treaty, according to the United Nations.

The only international body that does prosecute crimes against humanity is the International Criminal Court (ICC), a Hague-based organization that works in cooperation with the UN, though it relies on other countries for support, particularly for making arrests and enforcing sentences.

The ICC prosecutes and investigates cases that fall under its jurisdiction after sufficient evidence has been presented—though neither Ukraine nor Russia is governed by the treaty that established the ICC, it can still initiate an investigation “on her own initiative,” according to its website.

Crucical Quote

Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Harris’ comments in a statement Saturday morning, noting the U.S. reserves “crimes against humanity determinations for the most egregious crimes,” adding its findings “underlines [the]

staggering extent of the human suffering inflicted by Moscow on the Ukrainian civilian population.”

Surprising Fact

The ICC last investigated accusations of crimes against humanity in 2011, when it explored and “condemned” allegations of violence against civilians by the Libyan government. The court issued arrest warrants for five suspects—including Muammar Gaddafi, who led the nation between 1969 and 2011—though none resulted in any charges.

Key Background

Harris’ announcement is the second time the U.S. has accused Russia of committing war crimes in the last year. In April 2022, President Joe Biden, citing photographs of dead civilians from Bucha, Ukraine, called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and called for him to go to trial. Other institutions have accused Russia of committing crimes against humanity, including Amnesty International, a human rights organization that cited instances of the forceful transfer and deportation of people from Ukraine.

What To Watch For

Biden travels to Poland early next week to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda ahead of a speech in Warsaw about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Further Reading

US: Russia Has Committed Crimes Against Humanity In Ukraine (AP)

Putin’s War Crimes Could Be Prosecuted In The United States (Forbes)

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tylerroush/2023/02/18/us-accuses-russia-of-crimes-against-humanity-in-ukraine-heres-what-that-means/