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Senators seek to strengthen US laws regarding war crimes

Sep 28, 2022

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It is “highly likely” Russians who committed war crimes in Ukraine will eventually make it into the United States, according to the Justice Department’s Counselor for War Crimes Accountability. That’s because of the sheer volume of crimes committed. During a recent visit to Washington, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said the country has documented 35,000 war crimes since the invasion began in February. Now, the U.S. Senate is exploring legislation to help with the prosecution. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to address what members described as loopholes that would allow war criminals to find safe haven in America because there is no U.S. statute for crimes against humanity.

A bipartisan proposal, the Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, would allow prosecutors to charge war criminals who are found in the United States, regardless of where they committed their offenses.

“We know from our experience with Nazi war criminals that some offenders will escape immediate prosecution. They may assume false names, they may flee to other countries. Some may even make it to our country,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said. 

The Counselor for War Crimes Accountability, Eli M. Rosenbaum, explained there are also limitations in U.S. laws regarding torture and genocide.

“To use a graphic but, sadly, relevant example, if a foreign person executed a large number of unarmed, innocent civilians during a war, we could not prosecute that person for war crimes or genocide, even if the person were in the United States, if none of the victims were U.S. nationals or if we could not prove the specific intent to destroy a protected group,” Rosenbaum said in testimony before the committee.

Ultimately lawmakers hope enacting more detailed statutes will assist prosecutors in holding Russian war criminals accountable, including Vladimir Putin.

“Even if personally, he never is behind bars. He can be convicted and sentenced in absentia, and the world has an obligation to call them out and hold him accountable.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said.

The hearing comes as Congress works to pass a government funding bill that will provide another $12.3 billion for Ukraine. That includes $7.5 billion for military assistance and $4.5 billion for economic and humanitarian support. 

“We should spare no effort now that potentially we’re on the cusp of victory, literally, on the edge of a major win in Ukraine if we can continue to supply the high tech drones, the long range artillery, all of it necessary to provide both defense and lethal offense,” Blumenthal said.

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Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin  says the country has documented 35 thousand war crimes since the Russian invasion began. 

Now the U.S. Senate is exploring legislation to help with the prosecution. Senators say there are loopholes that would allow war criminals to find safe haven in America because there is no U.S. statute for crimes against humanity.  

A bipartisan proposal, the Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, would allow prosecutors to charge war criminals who are found in the United States, regardless of where they committed their offenses. 

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY says: “We know from our experience with Nazi war criminals that some offenders will escape immediate prosecution. They may assume false names, they may flee to other countries. Some may even make it to our country.” 

The Justice Department Counselor for War Crimes Accountability says there are additional limitations that only allow prosecutors to charge criminals if the victim was a U.S. national or servicemember. 

Ultimately lawmakers hope enacting more detailed statutes will allow for more prosecutions of Russian war criminals, including Vladimir Putin.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL says: Even if personally, he never is behind bars. He can be convicted and sentenced in absentia, and the world has an obligation to call them out and hold him accountable.”

The hearing comes as Congress works to pass a government funding bill that will provide another 12.3 billion dollars for Ukraine aid. That will include  7.5 billion for military assistance and 4.5 billion for economic and humanitarian support. 

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL says: “We should spare no effort now that potentially we’re on the cusp of victory, literally, on the edge of a major win in Ukraine if we can continue to supply the high tech drones, the long range artillery, all of it necessary to provide both defense and lethal offense.”

Straight from DC, I’m Ray Bogan 


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