The U.S. has “credible information” that a Russian military unit in Ukraine’s Donetsk region “executed Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender, rather than take them into custody,” a top American official told the United Nations Wednesday.
What they’re saying: “If true, this would be a violation of a core principle of the laws of war,” said Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice in remarks to the UN Security Council.
- Specifically, “the prohibition against the summary execution of civilians and combatants who are hors de combat by virtue of surrender, injury, or other forms of incapacitation,” she said.
- Van Schaack added that the U.S. also has “credible reports of individuals killed execution-style with their hands bound; bodies showing signs of torture; horrific accounts of sexual violence against women and girls.”
The bottom line: “These images and reports suggest that atrocities are not the result of rogue units or individuals; they, rather, reveal a deeply disturbing pattern of systematic abuse across all areas where Russia’s forces are engaged,” Van Schaack said.
The big picture: The International Criminal Court and others are investigating whether Russian forces have committed war crimes and other human rights violations in Ukraine.
- President Biden accused Putin’s forces earlier this month of committing “genocide” in Ukraine, but the Kremlin has repeatedly denied that its forces have committed any war crimes in the country.
- The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that its military has committed any atrocities in Ukraine.
Between the lines: War crimes have been historically hard to investigate and often even more challenging to prosecute, per Axios’ Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath.
Go deeper: What counts as a war crime and why they’re so hard to prosecute