WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the illegal invasion of Ukraine grinds on into its seventh month, atrocity crimes have been reportedly committed by the Russian forces. Ukrainian officials suspect that the number of war crimes will rise to more than 15,000.
The McCain Institute at Arizona State University (ASU) hosted two virtual discussions featuring lawyers, reporters, prosecutors, and investigators making sure that the Ukrainians and the international community hold Russian individuals accountable for the atrocity crimes they have committed.
The event featured opening remarks from Ambassador Beth Van Schaack, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice (GCJ). The first virtual conversation was between McCain Institute Executive Director Dr. Evelyn Farkas and the Lead Advisor for the EU-UK-US Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group Ambassador Clint Williamson (formerly a senior director, fellow, and professor at the McCain Institute and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law).
“Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has identified thousands of incidents that may constitute war crimes, and this is all without knowing what is unfolding in the areas still under Russia’s control,” said Ambassador Van Schaack. “We expect that evidence of more atrocities will continue to emerge and Ukraine is on track to become the most well-documented crime scene in all of human history.”
“The situation in Ukraine garners world attention as many world leaders are now convening to talk about the fact that along with ending the war on the right terms, we need accountability for the war crimes committed by Russia,” said Dr. Farkas. “The biggest lesson we can all learn from the war crime atrocities in Ukraine is that we are all human, all flawed, and we are prone to evil if we are not held accountable.”
“It’s easy when you look at what’s going on in the world to be discouraged in terms of human rights and democracy, but there is reason for optimism because we are at this time in history where international justice is no longer just theoretical,” said Ambassador Williamson. “Seeing what was happening at the border of Poland and Ukraine in the days after the Russian invasion truly brings home why it is so important to confront the atrocities of the war.”
The second panel was moderated by McCain Institute Human Rights and Democracy Program Manager Pedro Pizano and featured Truth Hounds Executive Director Roman Avramenko, EU-UK-US Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group Coordinator Andrea Cayley, Global Justice Advisors Founder Scott Martin, and Maidan Monitoring Information Center Chair Nataliya Zubar.
“As Senator McCain summed up in 2017: ‘Vladimir Putin is an evil man, and he is intent on evil deeds, which include the destruction of the liberal world order.’ It took the biggest war and darkest hours in Europe since 1945 for us to finally see it,” said Pedro Pizano. “There are few things more evil than committing atrocity crimes: war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”