From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Definition of War Crimes
Mains level : War crimes and genocides
India condemned the killing of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) calling for an independent UN inquiry. (However India abstained from blaming Russia for the civilian deaths.)
Note: Such events are of least GS importance. However, one must recognize the severity of such massacres and the imprint that it left on entire humanity. Yes, it is not India’s war, but it is no mean activity for a military superpower to march and annexe a small neighbour. This topic holds much importance for personality test.
- The grimmest discoveries have been made in a Kyiv suburb called Bucha, a town located about 25 km to the northwest of the capital.
- More than 300 bodies have been found in the town, some with their hands bound, flesh burned, and shot in the back of the head.
- Satellite images now available show streets strewn with corpses, and many of the bodies seen by journalists in the past couple of days appear to have lain in the open for weeks.
- The reports and pictures of corpses wearing civilian clothes, some clutching shopping bags, suggest that ordinary citizens were murdered without provocation, as they went about their daily business.
A no lesser holocaust event
- The discoveries have drawn comparisons with the killings of civilians in this area during World War II.
- It reminds of the First Battle of Kyiv (part of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union that began in June 1941) and the Second Battle of Kyiv (November-December 1943).
- The Red (Soviet) Army started to push back the Germans from Ukraine, the area around the Ukrainian capital, including Bucha.
- It saw the “Holocaust by bullets” during which an estimated 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were shot dead at close range.
A genocide or war crimes?
- War crimes are defined as “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, agreements signed after World War II that laid down international humanitarian laws during war time.
- Deliberately targeting civilians amounts to a war crime.
- The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague has already opened an investigation into possible war crimes by Russia.
- The investigation could in theory target even Putin. But it will be difficult to bring Russian defendants to trial or to prove intent.
- Russia does not recognise the ICC and will likely not cooperate with the investigation.
- The crimes of genocide are defined by the United Nations Genocide Convention of December 1948.
- It includes acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. Genocide is seen as the gravest and most serious of all crimes against humanity.