US and Allies: Hold Russia Accountable for Ukrainian Crimes

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and its allies pledged Thursday to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed by its forces that invaded Ukraine on February 24 and strongly supported investigations by the International Criminal Court, United Nations and other bodies.

US Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya told a UN Security Council meeting on strengthening accountability and justice for serious violations of international law that in nearly 100 days, the world has seen Russian forces bomb maternity wards, train stations, apartment buildings and homes and kill civilians cycling down the street.

“We have received credible information that Russian forces are torturing and committing execution-type murders of people with their hands tied behind their backs,” she said. “We have received reports of women and girls being raped, some publicly, and of children being taken to Russia and offered for adoption. And we know that Russian forces continue to deny safe passage to civilians fleeing violence and to humanitarian organizations trying to reach those in need.

Zeya said the United States was working with its allies to support a wide range of international investigations into the atrocities in Ukraine. And she said the Biden administration has a message for Russia’s political and military leaders: “The world is watching you, and you will be held accountable.”

Irish Attorney General Paul Gallagher hailed the many efforts over the past three months to support calls for justice in Ukraine. He said Ireland was one of 41 countries that quickly referred the situation in Ukraine to the ICC, which deployed a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support staff to investigate Russian crimes and support the country’s efforts.

Ireland is also encouraged by the UN Human Rights Council’s establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry into Ukraine and the “meaningful and welcome coordination” of investigative efforts, it said. he declared.

“If we are to bring justice to victims and survivors, it is essential that we ensure that this momentum is maintained and that these investigations ultimately result in fair and impartial criminal prosecutions where there is supporting evidence,” Gallagher said.

Britain’s deputy ambassador to the UN, James Kariuki, has called “Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine” a violation of international law and the UN Charter.

Although Russia’s veto has prevented the Security Council from taking action against Ukraine, he said, it has not prevented “the international system from taking action to achieve justice”.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has accused Western nations of “hypocrisy” for suddenly calling for international criminal justice for what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine,

In contrast, he asserted that during the NATO attacks in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, “international law was seen only as an inconvenient obstacle” and that the crimes of alleged wars went unpunished.

Nebenzia also accused the West of using the ICC “as a political tool”, saying that “neither the ICC nor the West cares about the many crimes of the Kyiv regime” which came to power in 2014 and continues to attacking civilians in Eastern Donbass in Ukraine. Region.

The Russian military recently launched a major offensive in Donbass and its officials said Moscow’s main goal was to “liberate” the region which is the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine. Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces there since 2014, when Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president was forced out of office by protests.

The Security Council meeting was chaired by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who spoke more broadly about accountability by stating that “the fundamental values ​​enshrined in the growing body of international law, humanitarian law, international law of human rights and international criminal law continue to be systematically and grossly violated”.

Rama, whose country holds the council presidency this month, said that by not holding the Syrian regime accountable “for its crimes against its own people” during the country’s 11-year war “we may have be encouraged from atrocities elsewhere”.

He said Russia’s “reprehensible” aggression against Ukraine “has violated everything this council stands for – the values, norms, law and respect we owe each other as responsible members of the same community of nations”.

“Horrible crimes being committed are uncovered every day,” Rama said. “It calls for accountability.”

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has warned that ‘impunity fuels and intensifies’ many crises and ’embolds perpetrators, silences victims and undermines prospects for peace, rights’. of man and development”.

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