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What are war crimes?
Disturbed by the images of deaths in Bucha, in Ukraine, the UN human rights chief
Michelle Bachelet said that reports raise questions of possible war crimes. But what
qualifies as a war crime?
In June of 2020, just days after the International Criminal Court or
ICC decided to launch a probe into alleged war crimes in
Afghanistan, the then US president Donald Trump issued an
executive order imposing sanctions on ICC officials involved in
probing Americans. The United States is not a state party to the
ICC. And its citizens cannot be tried in the international court. Two
years later, as Russian fighter jets bombed Ukraine, leaving
scores of civilians dead, western countries led by the United
States want its president Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes.
It is clear that civilians withstand the worst of wars. Keeping that in
mind, protection of civilians has been made central to international
humanitarian law, which regulates how a war is supposed to be
conducted. Presently, the International Criminal Court and the
International Court of Justice are involved in upholding the rules of
war. Since civilian casualties have taken place in all recent
conflicts, without any of those being labelled as war crimes, you
might be wondering exactly what amounts to being a war crime.