U.S. can accuse Russia of war crimes, but prosecution will be elusive

The Biden administration announced its decision to formally determine that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine; such decisions are not unusual in a conflict, says Oumar Ba, assistant professor of government in the College of Arts & Sciences. Ba studies the international criminal justice system and is author of the book “States of Justice: The Politics of the International Criminal Court.”
“That parties to a conflict accuse one another of committing war crimes is not uncommon," says Ba. "The question is whether there is a process by which investigations can be conducted, evidence collected and presented to a court.

"In the case of the U.S. accusing Russians of committing war crimes, of course the U.S. can impose sanctions on those it deems responsible. But at this moment, there are not many options available for criminal proceedings in relation to those accusations. The most plausible route for an eventual prosecution would have to be the U.S. handing evidence, if it has any, to Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is already conducting an investigation in Ukraine,” Bay says.

For media inquiries, contact Becka Bowyer, (607) 220-4185, rpb224@cornell.edu.

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