Report to Congress on War Crimes in Ukraine

October 17, 2023 8:07 AM

The following is the Oct. 16, 2023, Congressional Research Service report, War Crimes in Ukraine.

From the report

Some Members of Congress have expressed concern about reports and evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s 2022 invasion. Ukrainian authorities and international monitors have increasingly accused Russian forces of perpetrating a wide range of war crimes, including the intentional targeting of civilians. The type of war crimes and human rights violations being alleged has shifted as the conflict has evolved, and as more evidence is uncovered. In the 118th Congress, some Members have expressed interest in determining what can be done to deter war crimes, support U.S. and international efforts to collect and preserve evidence of such crimes, and ensure accountability for those responsible.

As of September 29, 2023, Ukrainian authorities in the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine state they have recorded 108,904 potential war crimes committed by Russian forces. The Russian military has been accused of war crimes in previous conflicts, including wars in its breakaway republic of Chechnya and in supporting the Asad regime in Syria. Russia’s political leadership denies any role or responsibility for all the alleged crimes.

The U.S. government has led international efforts to ensure criminal accountability for individuals who perpetrate war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. It has supported efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations, and the European Union to investigate, gather evidence, and report on atrocities committed in the Ukraine conflict. In addition, U.S. authorities have cooperated closely with Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General, as well as justice officials in several allied EU and NATO countries, to support current and future investigations and prosecutions for the so-called “core international crimes”: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and aggression. Despite the sometimes difficult relationship between the United States and the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Biden Administration has expressed approval of and has cooperated with the ICC on that court’s investigation into the situation in Ukraine, which has produced an arrest warrant naming Russian President Vladimir Putin on suspicion of war crimes. The United States is part of a core group of states working with Ukraine to establish a special international criminal tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine.

Congress has acted to support accountability efforts in Ukraine, including through appropriating funds for U.S. activities to ensure accountability for perpetrators of atrocities. In December 2022, the 117th Congress loosened restrictions on U.S. support to the ICC and other international criminal justice efforts and authorized the direction of support for accountability in Ukraine. Congress also amended the federal statute criminalizing war crimes, expanding U.S. jurisdiction to include war crimes committed against foreign populations by foreign perpetrators. Since the Russian invasion began, congressional committees have conducted hearings and other oversight regarding U.S. and international efforts to hold perpetrators of atrocities in the Ukraine conflict accountable for their actions.

This report addresses war crimes and other international crimes in Ukraine, U.S. and international responses to those crimes, and associated issues and options for Congress.

Download the document here.

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox