The Internation Criminal Court has opened an investigation
Why are we talking about war crimes today?
Zelenskiy called Putin's actions a
Who thinks Putin is a war criminal?
Isn't war itself a crime?
Have there always been rules of war?
The Geneva Conventions
Did the world wars make a search for a common legal status inevitable?
'War Crimes' and 'Crimes Against Humanity'
Obliged to pursue justice
Understanding international courts
A court for actions, another for individuals
Are 'war crimes' synonymous with 'crimes against humanity'?
What are war crimes?
What are crimes against humanity?
What is the maximum penalty for war crimes?
Is the process of obtaining a conviction easy?
Is the term 'war crimes' a matter of interpretation?
So what will happen to Putin?
What allegations are there against Putin?
Would the International Criminal Court sentence the Russian President?
Who else could judge Putin?
What punishment does Putin risk?
Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(1/23)
The Internation Criminal Court has opened an investigation

The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Russia as part of the invasion of Ukraine. This was announced by one of the court's investigating judges, Karim A. Khan, in early March 2022. Speaking from Lviv, where he later went to gather more information for the investigation, he added that there were 'valid reasons' to justify it.

But what are 'war crimes' and can Putin really be brought to justice?

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(2/23)
Why are we talking about war crimes today?

It was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy who spoke of war crimes after the Russian bombing of the hospital in Mariupol, which is said to have caused numerous deaths and injuries, and raised the possibility of such charges against Vladimir Putin.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(3/23)
Zelenskiy called Putin's actions a "war crime"

Zelenskiy described the attack as a "war crime," as he had done in previous days of other Russian bombing raids on Ukrainian civilian buildings.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(4/23)
Who thinks Putin is a war criminal?

Joe Biden, President of the United States, also commented on this topic. "Mr. President, after everything we've seen, would you be willing to call Putin a war criminal?" he was asked by a reporter. According to CNN, after an initial "no," the commander-in-chief replied, changing his answer: "I think he's a war criminal."

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(5/23)
Isn't war itself a crime?

While war is not considered a crime under international law, that does not mean that there are no rules. There are  principles that are based on certain inalienable rights, primarily respect for and protection of human dignity and life. When these rights are violated, it is legitimate to speak of war crimes, but war itself is nevertheless provided for in many laws and is therefore 'legal'.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(6/23)
Have there always been rules of war?

The ancient Romans already understood the concept of 'honor in arms', i.e., respect for the enemy: this principle, with few exceptions, may have governed most wartime relations in the past, at least between nobles and high-ranking soldiers.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(7/23)
The Geneva Conventions

And yet, as early as the second half of the 19th century, the need to write down agreements between states to be enforced in the event of war, agreements that would later become the famous Geneva Conventions, occurred. These principles are, for example, protecting and guaranteeing the respect of civilian personnel not involved in the conflict (including journalists) and a ban on attacking those helping the wounded.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(8/23)
Did the world wars make a search for a common legal status inevitable?

The two world wars were a dark time for humanity, a time in history when the honor of arms seemed to be permanently lacking. Just think of the Holocaust, the use of chemical weapons, and the uncontrolled extermination of prisoners and civilians. At the end of the Second World War, it was more than evident that there must be rules limiting states' actions in possible future conflicts.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(9/23)
'War Crimes' and 'Crimes Against Humanity'

The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 clearly introduced the concepts of 'war crimes' and 'crimes against humanity, which had seemed vague and somewhat abstruse until then.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(10/23)
Obliged to pursue justice

In addition to protecting the civilian population, the conventions introduce other essential aspects: each signatory state is obliged to pursue, arrest and bring to justice those accused of war crimes. And any state can do this, regardless of its nationality, the nationality of the victim, and the place where the crime was committed.

So far, only Spain has applied the principle of "universal jurisdiction" to try Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (pictured).

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(11/23)
Understanding international courts

After decades of negotiations, the statute of the International Criminal Court was signed in Rome in 1998. The document states that the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is also currently investigating Putin, has jurisdiction in war crimes cases.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(12/23)
A court for actions, another for individuals

Another court, the International Court of Justice of the United Nations, is also based in The Hague. The difference between the two bodies may seem small at first glance, but it is significant, especially given the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The United Nations International Court of Justice judges the actions of states, while the International Criminal Court judges individuals.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(13/23)
Are 'war crimes' synonymous with 'crimes against humanity'?

Another key difference concerns 'war crimes' and 'crimes against humanity,' two often confused terms. Both offenses are violations of the fundamental values of the international community. Still, while the former are acts of war, i.e., violations of the laws governing civilian and military conduct in a conflict, the latter is about acts of violence and mistreatment of the civilian population (deportations, torture, mass killings, etc.)

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(14/23)
What are war crimes?

War crimes include, for example, deliberate and systematic military attacks on civilian targets. It also includes actions resulting from the use of special weapons, such as cluster bombs used in the Kharkiv region and against a kindergarten in Oktyrka (eastern Ukraine), and thermal bombs used in densely populated civilian areas. Other examples of war crimes include the mistreatment of prisoners of war and the killing of hostages.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(15/23)
What are crimes against humanity?

Crimes against humanity include, for example, slavery, deportation of the population, torture, persecution of a group or community with its own identity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, or gender grounds. It includes apartheid and any other inhuman act that willfully causes great suffering or harm to any person's physical integrity, physical or mental health, as set out in Article 7 of the Rome Statute.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(16/23)
What is the maximum penalty for war crimes?

At the end of the Nuremberg trials, the Nazi hierarchs who had been guilty of the most severe allegations were sentenced to death. Today the death penalty is no longer imposed: the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. However, the sentence depends on various factors, including the seriousness of the crimes committed. Another fundamental aspect should not be underestimated: the accused must be physically present in court to be convicted. They must not be absent.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(17/23)
Is the process of obtaining a conviction easy?

History teaches us that being accused of war crimes and then convicted is not so easy, so there are many instances where such violations of the laws of war have gone unpunished.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(18/23)
Is the term 'war crimes' a matter of interpretation?

Among the most famous trials of war criminals in modern history are the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi hierarchs and the Tokyo trials of the Japanese. But while condemnation of the Nazis' actions is almost unanimously shared, the episode that effectively ended World War II does not meet with the same approval. While the two atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were seen by most as a necessary epilogue to ending a war that had claimed the lives of millions of people, they could in principle fall within the definition of a "war crime" because it was an attack on civilian targets.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(19/23)
So what will happen to Putin?

Russian President Vladimir Putin could be held accountable for alleged crimes in the conflict with Ukraine. However, an investigation must first be conducted. Karim Khan said the investigation must provide a reasonable basis for "supposing that war crimes or crimes against humanity were committed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine."

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(20/23)
What allegations are there against Putin?

Putin could be accused of violating the laws of war and international conventions, and would be judged on the principle of 'responsibility to command', meaning that a leader cannot ignore what is happening on the battlefield.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(21/23)
Would the International Criminal Court sentence the Russian President?

As we have seen, the International Criminal Court is the supranational body responsible for trying war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by individuals. In theory, it should be the body responsible for the trial of Putin. But would that really be the case? Aside from the fact that to be convicted, Putin would have to be physically present in court (i.e., be arrested), which seems impractical, at least for the moment. One has to keep in mind that both Russia and the US do not recognize this body since they never ratified the Treaty of Rome.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(22/23)
Who else could judge Putin?

In the past, for example in the case of Slobodan Milosevic's trial for crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, the UN set up a special international tribunal. This international tribunal could also not be subordinate to the UN, but subordinate to a group of states like NATO. Another possibility would be for Putin to be tried in one of the states that have already launched investigations and have a national war crimes law, such as Germany.

Could Putin be tried and convicted of war crimes?
(23/23)
What punishment does Putin risk?

Regardless of which procedural route is chosen, Putin risks life imprisonment, a scenario that experts currently see as unlikely. Proving responsibility for war crimes is a long, complex and potentially dead-end process. A possible conclusion could be that in the end nobody will be charged, neither the military leadership nor members of the Russian government.

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