‘Never before has international law been mobilized so quickly’ only after suspicions of war crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, Reed Brody, a member of the International Commission of Jurists and a specialist in the defense of human rights, stressed Friday, April 8 on franceinfo. The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation in early March after a week of conflict.
franceinfo: How would you qualify the scenes in Ukraine, especially in Boutcha?
Reed Brody: We are all in revolt, outraged by these images of carnage. These are images of war crimes, crimes against humanity, that is, crimes committed on a large scale or systematically. We are also confronted from the beginning with a crime of aggression, the highest international crime, an unjustified invasion of another country in violation of the United Nations Charter.
The ICC opened an investigation in early March. Has it ever been mobilized so quickly in a conflict?
Never has international law been mobilized as quickly as it is today. The ICC, supported by 41 countries, including France, has investigators on the ground collecting testimonies and evidence. We also now have 12 countries, including France, conducting their own investigations, either in the name of universal jurisdiction requiring certain crimes to cross borders or, as is the case with France, in defense of French citizens who have died in Ukraine. Above all, there is the Prosecutor General of Ukraine who has opened investigations on his own territory and, in fact, justice is most advanced.
Is it difficult to gather evidence in times of war?
Obviously there are many difficulties. For the witnesses, we have to centralize a bit, but there are many videos, there are many objects, ammunition to be studied, insignia, trajectories, there are Russian prisoners, Russian messages have been intercepted because they do not have a very advanced communication system. Yesterday, German intelligence released talks suggesting that the atrocities committed in Boutcha, for example, were not arbitrary acts or the product of soldiers getting out of hand, but that they were part of the daily life of Russian troops. For example, we heard a Russian soldier say, “First you interrogate people, then you kill them”. All this new evidence needs to be checked. We also have thousands of internet users around the world who help cut videos by searching different angles. All these elements, it’s very important now that we keep them, that we keep them.
Some countries denounce war crimes in Ukraine, but do not support the ICC. Isn’t it paradoxical?
There is a lot of hypocrisy. The United States, for example. The United States’ fear of the International Criminal Court is precisely that it claims to have jurisdiction to try nationals of countries that are not members of the ICC. When it examines the actions of Americans in Afghanistan away from home, the United States says it cannot because it is not part of the ICC. But they want soldiers from Russia – which is also not part of the ICC – to be investigated for crimes committed in Ukraine. So there is a lot of hypocrisy.
What we want is for this mobilization in favor of the International Court of Justice to become universal. There are many more massacres in the world this week in Mali, in Yemen, in Palestine, in Ethiopia. We should have the same solidarity, the same consciousness for everyone. If we had investigated the same crimes committed by the same Russian generals in Syria or in Grozny [capitale de la Tchétchénie prise par la Russie en 2000], this war might end differently. Even if it takes a year, two years, five years or ten years, impunity must end and those who commit these crimes must be brought to justice.