Tip Sheets

U.S. can accuse Russia of war crimes, but prosecution will be elusive

Media Contact

Becka Bowyer

The Biden administration formally determined that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

Oumar Ba

Assistant Professor

Oumar Ba, assistant professor of government at Cornell University, studies the international criminal justice system and is author of the book “States of Justice: The Politics of the International Criminal Court.”

Ba says:

“That parties to a conflict accuse one another of committing war crimes is not uncommon. The question is whether there is a process by which investigations can be conducted, evidence collected and presented to a court. In the case of the U.S. accusing Russians of committing war crimes, of course the U.S. can impose sanctions on those it deems responsible.

"But at this moment, there are not many options available for criminal proceedings in relation to those accusations. The most plausible route for an eventual prosecution would have to be the U.S. handing evidence, if it has any, to Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is already conducting an investigation in Ukraine.”

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