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The Broken System


US and Russia do not recognise the International Criminal Court

Joe Biden, president of the United States, has a career of over 50 years in politics but all that experience has mattered little. Biden is still stumbling his way through the Ukraine-Russia crisis. Recently, there was another example when reporters asked him a simple question: a yes or no question, “Do you think Vladimir Putin is a war criminal?” He replied, “No”. After a few seconds, he came back to the reporter, “Did you ask me whether I would call Putin a war criminal? The reporter replied with yes, to which Biden said, “Oh, I think he is a war criminal”.

How decisive is that, exactly what do you want from a wartime leader. Did somebody nudge Biden to change his position? Did he not hear the question properly or is this another classic Biden faux pas? Either way, the White House was forced to clean up, they say Biden was speaking from his heart. According to the White House, “The president’s remarks speak for themselves, he was speaking from his heart and speaking from what he’s seen on television which are barbaric actions by a brutal dictator through his invasion of a foreign country.”

Let’s address the basics first, who decides whether someone is a war criminal? The United Nations has a court for that. It is called the ICC, the International Criminal Court, and it’s based in The Hague. This court can label someone a war criminal.

Question number two, what constitutes a war crime? There is no fixed list, but most offences are drawn from the Geneva Convention. If we list some of them out; targeting civilians, targeting non-military assets, using human shields, taking hostages, using banned weapons, etc. All of these are war crimes, now looking at that list Russia is a prime candidate; they have targeted hospitals, schools and shelters. Residential complexes have been bombed as well. Technically these are war crimes.

Question number three, Is Putin a war criminal? Vladimir Putin is the president of Russia, making him commander-in-chief of the Russian armed forces. So, he does share responsibility, perhaps he ordered these illegal strikes or at the very least he knew about them. So, the allegation is certainly warranted.


Question number four, Can Putin be prosecuted? Tribunals have prosecuted leaders before, like the Nuremberg trials or the Tokyo trials but Russia does not recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction. So, Putin is not going to be prosecuted nor will he send his generals to the stand. So, these allegations are mostly symbolic and America should know that.

The US Senate passed a resolution against Putin. It says that Putin is a war criminal and that the ICC must immediately probe his actions in Ukraine. How brave of the senators, except America itself does not recognise the Hague. In fact, they have gone a step ahead, let me introduce the American service members protection act also known as The Hague Invasion Act. It was signed by George Bush in 2002. It says that the American Society for Public Administration authorises the president to use “all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US or allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of or at the request of the international criminal court.

All means necessary and that could mean anything. This law empowers America to invade The Hague hence the name The Hague Invasion Act and I am not saying the US will actually do it but imagine the audacity. Washington will go to any lengths to protect its war criminals. By the way, the list is long, the man who signed this law George Bush is one of them. His war on terror killed thousands of innocent civilians. He authorised torture and illegally detained hundreds of people, but The Hague would not touch him because if they do, America could invade.

The man who succeeded Bush is no better. Barack Obama launched 563 drone strikes in which around 800 civilians were killed in those so-called precision strikes, again no accountability.

Now, do not get me wrong, none of this justifies what Vladimir Putin is doing in Chechnya and Ukraine is equally bad. We are simply pointing out the obvious, a broken system; a system that lets powerful war criminals get away. We cannot let superpowers pick and choose which parts of the international system they like. Just think about it, America and Russia are both United Nations Security Council members, yet both of them do not recognise the ICC. What’s the point of the system?

We do not know how this war will end or whether Russia will be held accountable but here’s what we do know, the post-World War II system needs to be reformed. If not another George Bush will emerge and Putin of this world will be emboldened.




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