War crime prosecutor’s team member speaks on the phone next to buildings that were destroyed by Russian shelling, amid Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, in Borodyanka, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 7, 2022. Zohra Bensemra/Reuters
- A US ambassador told lawmakers it’ll be tough to capture Russians accused of war crimes in Ukraine.
- But she said international prosecutors will be ready to capture them if they travel abroad.
- Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes since the war’s early days.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za,
A US ambassador said on Thursday that it will be challenging to apprehend Russians accused of committing war crimes in Ukraine but said international prosecutors will be ready to capture them if they travel abroad.
“Eventually people, perpetrators will want to travel — they will have family members abroad, they will want to visit the capitals of Europe,” Beth Van Schaack, the US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
“Those of us in this business are playing a long game,” she said, adding that international prosecutors will be “ready with indictments in hand.”
Ukrainian officials and western states have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine since the early days of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February invasion of the eastern European country.
In the first 11 weeks of the war, journalists, civilians, and officials have reported and recorded allegations of Russian troops looting homes, and raping, torturing, and indiscriminately executing people.
Russian forces have also been accused of bombing populated residential areas, leaving scores dead.
The International Criminal Court, alongside Ukraine and other European states, is investigating potential war crimes. Last month, a Ukrainian official said there are at least thousands of cases of alleged war crimes.
It’s not immediately clear how long it would take for troops accused of committing war crimes to face justice or how many could be captured. US President Joe Biden has even called for a war crimes trial against Putin, after previously referring to him as a “war criminal.”
Van Schaack said on Thursday that the current international coordination to investigate and seek accountability for war crimes has not been seen since the 1990s, with the criminal tribunals in Rwanda and what was formerly Yugoslavia.
“There is a huge international effort to document crimes that is being done multilaterally through partnerships and also individually at the civil society level,” Van Schaack said, adding there is “a huge effort with prosecutors from different systems, working together.”