it is “premature” to speak of a “crime against humanity” after the bombing of Kramatorsk, according to a specialist lawyer

“It’s filthy, another massacre.” The bombing of Kramatorsk station, which killed at least 50 people, Friday, April 8, in eastern Ukraine, constitutes a “crime against humanity”said a few hours later on France 5 Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “We need experts quickly because we need to see quickly. We urgently need to document in order to provide evidence for crimes against humanity.”he added.

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Does the head of French diplomacy have the right to use this qualification? What is the definition of crime against humanity? When does it apply? How are such crimes investigated? Franceinfo asked these questions: Clemence Bectarte, lawyer representing the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the French coalition at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Franceinfo: What is a crime against humanity?

Clemence Bectarte: Crimes against humanity are crimes committed as part of a systematic or widespread attack on a civilian population. For example, rape or torture as part of an attack. To talk about crimes against humanity you need a series of criminal acts. Crimes against humanity are defined as any type of plan or policy to attack the civilian population.

Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity are not necessarily committed in time of war. War crimes and crimes against humanity do not follow the same logic, but they can co-exist. That is why an investigation was opened on 2 March with the two qualifiers, “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, by the Attorney General of the ICC related to Ukraine.

Is Jean-Yves Le Drian right when he says that the Kramatorsk station bombing is a crime against humanity?

It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to define it. It is important to recall these legal concepts, which remain important benchmarks. This has not been done in all conflicts. But when Jean-Yves Le Drian says so, there are no legal consequences. It is not the politician’s word that will prevail. It is the courts that have jurisdiction to decide on this qualification. They have the power to judge whether a crime against humanity has been committed.

The possibility of reaching the stage of a crime against humanity is a hypothesis that was considered from the start, as the ICC investigation opened with this indictment seven days after the outbreak of the war. Today, is it true? It’s too early to say. It is all the work that is done: it will be decisive. In addition, the crimes are still being committed today. Impossible for justice to act in real time.

“It is not yet known whether the bombing of Kramatorsk station will be counted among the incidents listed as ‘crimes against humanity’.”

Clemence Bectarte, lawyer

at franceinfo

Can other abuses in Ukraine be classified as crimes against humanity?

Again, it’s premature to say. Only studies will confirm this. Remember that an investigation is being opened before the ICC into a situation, not specific facts. That is, the ICC chooses an indictment and selects incidents that support it: for example, an attack on a village and torture. This is the difference between international and national case law. In Ukraine, for example, the Attorney General opened some 4,000 investigations, as many investigations as incidents. It will be interesting to see how the two fit together.

Are the procedures and evidence gathering for crimes against humanity as organized as for war crimes?

Yes, the logic is similar. And there’s always the issue of preserving evidence. What does differ are the elements: you are not allowed to collect the same. Are civilian populations targeted as part of a deliberate policy? This is what we will try to demonstrate.

Because with the crime against humanity we are moving to another scale. It is a targeted, premeditated crime, which is repeated over time or committed in a single sequence. It is characterized by the scale of the acts committed. For example, an investigation was opened for the ICC into “crimes against humanity”. a demonstration suppressed by the ruling junta on September 28, 2009 in Conakry (Guinea). These events took place in one day.

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