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Why Bucha must be investigated

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Nearly every corner in Bucha is now a crime scene, and it felt like death was everywhere,” so said Richard Weir, the crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The evidence indicates that Russian forces occupying Bucha showed contempt and disregard for civilian life and the most fundamental principles of the laws of war.”

“The chief regional prosecutor in Bucha, Ruslan Kravchenko, told Human Rights Watch on April 15 that 278 bodies had been found in the town since Russian forces withdrew, the vast majority of them civilians, and that the number was expected to rise as more bodies are discovered”.

The laws of war prohibit willful and indiscriminate killing, torture, enforced disappearances, and inhumane treatment of captured combatants and civilians in custody. Pillage or looting is also prohibited. Anyone who orders or deliberately commits such acts, or aids and abets them, is responsible for war crimes.

After nearly a hundred days of war in Ukraine, the Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland announceded that the Justice Department is going to contribute to international investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine, stating that the United States is pursuing efforts to hold Russia legally accountable for atrocities committed during its war on Ukraine.

This is extremely welcome news because it shows the need for Ukraine, its western partners, and especially Russia of the relevance and resolve for affirming legal accountability during the war in Ukraine.

Also of importance, it will both show and illustrate that the pursuit of truth and fact-based judicial proceedings will “institutionalize” in the minds of the world’s democracies, Russia’s denials and deceptions through international legal recourse. Establishing legal proceedings would expose Russia’s propaganda efforts, casting it as an aggressive and national liar, which, in juxtaposition to Ukraine, will illustrate the vast differences in the core values of each society.



Judicial exposure will weaken Russia’s rhetorical determination and undermine its justification for conducting an illegal and clearly immoral war against Ukraine while reaffirming the principle of legal accountability. There will not be justice, nor lasting peace, if Russia is not held legally accountable.

And just as Germany was held to account for its atrocities in World War II, so should Russia. Not holding Russia to account for its crimes in Ukraine, would be tantamount to abetting Russia’s crimes against Ukrainian humanity.

What must be illustrated, and it is here that both Germany and France must be called out, is clear judgement and condemnation of Russia’s genocidal actions in Ukraine. The failure to do so would be an act of negligence by democratic societies and a sign that the western world has not only failed to learn the historic lessons of Nazi genocidal actions, but has failed to apply these historic lessons in the context of present geo-political realities.

To mourn and grieve the dead is not enough. To be horrified and repelled by the crimes in Bucha, and by the numerous other “death stages” throughout Ukraine is not enough. Investigations are not enough.

The Russians have deliberately overturned civil order in Ukraine. They are attempting to impose a morality and ‘order’ that does not respect even basic human rights. A morality that does not respect human dignity and that is neither informed or governed by the basic acknowledgement of any moral or legal order that can be called civil.

What Ukraine needs is the establishment of a legal tradition that holds sacrosanct the individual dignity of a Ukrainian life on its lands. This is a historic opportunity that should not be squandered.

And though Ukraine’s citizens continue to idealize the principle of justice and fairness for all, especially in the post-Maidan age, Ukraine’s leaders failed to achieve this. Russia’s war with Ukraine is to ensure that such efforts continue to fail.

Justice in Ukraine, even in a time of war, must now not only be seen to be done, but must be done. The failure to achieve this will harden the cynicism of Ukraine’s citizens towards democratic principles, who have for years and years been promised fairness, justice and accountability, only to be disappointed by those whose resolve fails in establishing such basics to human and civil order.

It is not so much that Ukraine is a lawless land, it is however a land where just law is not practiced and where a tradition of jurisprudence does not exist that provides security for individuals.

What Ukrainians still need to learn is that the strength of a sovereign democratic society is determined by that society’s willingness and ability to prosecute crimes against its citizens. It is through judicial prosecutions of criminals against the fundamental human rights of a country’s citizens that shows the level of institutional commitment to the individual security of its citizens and their right to experience basic human dignity. However hard, this is the road that must be travelled.

Ukraine is not Russia and it will never be Russia. They have always been differentiated by their innate values, especially as to how they view human life. It is time that Ukraine’s western partners realize this. Ukraine is fighting to affirm the values that it has in common with its western partners. This is the essence of its resistance to Russia.

By accepting help and cooperating with its western partners, Ukraine will prove its commitment to govern itself in submission to the rule of law while giving itself the opportunity to learn how such an application can positively influence lawful and legally accountable behavior in its post-war civilian life.

Second, in fulfilling its demands for justice, Ukraine will have illustrated its commitment to individual justice within its own country and for a truth and fact’s-based judiciary.

In addition, it will establish the principle of legal accountability for behavior upon its lands.

But perhaps, most importantly, it will have illustrated that as a greater society, it will have paved a legal road upon which it can travel to gain entrance into the European Union of law- based societies.

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By: Nicholas Waller
Title: Why Bucha must be investigated
Sourced From: www.neweurope.eu/article/why-bucha-must-be-investigated/
Published Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2022 15:42:47 +0000

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