Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, its troops have increasingly hit civilian sites with airstrikes and artillery, raising concerns that war crimes are being committed.
- The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague announced that it would open an investigation into possible war crimes or crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
- There are specific international standards for war crimes, which are not to be confused with crimes against humanity.
- War crimes are defined as serious violations of humanitarian laws during a conflict.
- The definition, established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is derived from the 1949 Geneva Conventions and is based on the idea that individuals can be held liable for the actions of a state or its military.
- The UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect separates war crimes from genocide and crimes against humanity.
- War crimes are defined as occurring in a domestic conflict or a war between two states, while genocide and crimes against humanity can happen in peacetime or during the unilateral aggression of a military towards a group of unarmed people.
- There is a long list of acts that can be considered war crimes.
- The taking of hostages, wilful killings, torture or inhuman treatment of prisoners of war, and forcing children to fight are some of the more obvious examples.
- To decide whether an individual or a military has committed a war crime, international humanitarian law lays down three principles: distinction, proportionality and precaution.
- Proportionality prohibits armies from responding to an attack with excessive violence.
- Precaution requires parties to a conflict to avoid or minimize the harm done to the civilian population.
- the principle of distinction says that you have to be constantly trying to distinguish between civilian and belligerent populations and objects.