Should war criminals be profiled?

A few days ago, the Ukrainian authorities announced that they had recorded no less than 58.000 war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces on its territory since the start of the military intervention on February 24. Indeed, shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, reports of looting, rape, torture and summary executions, including of prisoners of war and civilians, began to flow, and numerous cases documented by independent parties actually attest to these abuses. For Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Karim Khan, today the whole of Ukraine would be a crime scene, so many abuses have been. If the Ukrainian national and international authorities are now actively involved in the recovery and preservation of evidence, and in the identification of criminals, it is clear that understanding the mechanisms that gave rise to such horrors repressed by justice international, is to say the least summary, and is most often limited to questioning the chain of command, and the psychological effects that war can cause.

Indeed, if international agreements, in particular the Geneva Convention, made it possible to create certain international penal authorities capable of trying war criminals, as was the case with the Nuremberg Tribunal to try Nazi criminals, the International Tribunal for Far East for Japanese criminals, or even to judge war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, it is clear that the very understanding of war criminals, and of their psychology which gave rise to these crimes, is very superficial, so that it is now very difficult to criminally implicate all the actors involved in these crimes, but also to acquire tools to anticipate or even prevent the emergence of these abuses.

TPI Former Yugoslavia Defense Analysis | Russian-Ukrainian conflict | Russian Federation
The Hague Tribunal was created in 2002. It is actively present in Ukraine to collect evidence of war crimes.

Wanton exactions against opposing civilian populations or prisoners of war are as old as war itself. Thus, in 260 BC, the great general of the state of Qin (western China) Bai Qi, executed 400.000 prisoners from the neighboring state of Zhao after the battle of Changpin, by burying them alive. At that time, the victor had the right of life and death over the vanquished, in China as everywhere on the planet. The concept of war crime only appeared in the 19th century, in particular with the signing of the First Geneva Convention on the protection of war wounded in 1864, a convention closely linked to the creation of the Red Cross following the battle of Solferino in 1959. Since then, 3 other conventions have been signed, in 1906 for wounded sailors, in 1929 for the treatment of prisoners of war, and in 1949 for the protection of civilian populations. The International Criminal Court, the only international jurisdiction capable of judging such misdeeds, was only created in 2002. Before that, war criminals were most often tried by national courts, such procedures aimed above all only at the loser of a conflict, both for legal and political purposes.


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