‘Putin is done’: US lawyer who indicted Liberian warlord Charles Taylor argues against Russian president

JThe US lawyer who accused Liberia’s Charles Taylor of war crimes says Vladimir Putin is legally and politically “finished” and has drafted an indictment that could be used to prosecute the Russian president.

David Crane, who has charged Taylor with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the deaths of nearly 70,000 people in West Africa, detailed similar charges against the Russian leader.

Additionally, Crane included the crime of aggression, the offense of which the leaders of Nazi Germany were charged and convicted at the Nuremberg trials.

“Vladimir Putin is finished, practically, politically and legally. It’s only a matter of time,” said Crane, the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Independent.

“He’s going to be put on trial. And he will be an indicted war criminal, which no longer gives him any legal, political or diplomatic status. He doesn’t have the ability to move around the world. He has no more respectability, like we did with Taylor, we stripped him of all his power.

He adds: “In my opinion, it is done politically, practically and legally. And I don’t think he fully appreciates it. But I’ve never seen the world come together, to see something like that.

In the weeks following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Crane, a scholar-in-residence at Syracuse University School of Law, oversaw the efforts of a so-called Ukraine Task Force. , a collaboration of law students and lawyers, who worked with information specialists to document alleged war crimes.

The group, which numbers more than 400 people and involves 12 universities and human rights groups, has conducted similar research into alleged war crimes in Syria. Russia has denied committing war crimes and claimed, without providing evidence, that atrocities seen in towns like Bucha, north of kyiv, were staged by Ukrainians to make Moscow look bad.

Recently, Crane and his team completed a 276-page report detailing numerous potential war crimes committed since Russia invaded Ukraine six weeks ago, as well as the legal accountability framework for charging individuals who bear responsibility for crimes, with specific violations of international law.

The war in Ukraine | Behind the headlines

It includes a draft indictment against Putin, 69, and also lays out the case against four other senior Russian officials – Valery Vasilyevich Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff; Nikolay Vasilyevich Bogdanovsky, member of the General Staff; Igor Olegovich Kostyukov, Director of Russian Military Intelligence; and Oleg Leonidovich Salyukov, Commander-in-Chief of Russian Ground Forces.

The report says the names are “not an exhaustive list, but merely an introduction to officials at the highest level”.

The report states that since the invasion, Ukrainian citizens have been forced to endure kidnappings, destruction of property, starvation, terror, bombings and murder at the hands of the Russian Federation.

“As consistent with Ukraine’s complex and complicated history, Russia is once again seeking to assert its dominance and control over the territory in wanton violation of international law and Ukrainian sovereignty,” he said. .

“There is no clearer violation of the laws of humanity. In its most basic elements, international law and the laws of humanity establish the self-determination and self-expression of a people as fundamental rights free from violation by foreign powers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, for several weeks described what is happening to his country as war crimes, and called for a Nuremberg-style tribunal to prosecute those responsible.

“Today, as a result of Russia’s actions in our country, in Ukraine, the most terrible war crimes we have seen since the end of World War II are being committed,” he said. he said in a virtual address to the United Nations Security Council earlier. this month.

“Russian troops are deliberately burning Ukrainian cities to ashes with artillery and airstrikes. They deliberately block cities, creating mass starvation. They deliberately shoot at columns of civilians on the road trying to flee the hostilities.

David Crane was tasked by Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead the West Africa investigation

(U.S. Department of Defense)

At the end of February, Karim Khan, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, said he had opened an initial investigation into possible war crimes.

Meanwhile, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has set up a commission of inquiry.

Joe Biden called Putin a war criminal and said he should be held accountable. However, the United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court, after American politicians repeatedly rejected its membership because they feared that American citizens could be tried.

Reports suggest the Biden administration is currently trying to juggle support for Ukraine, while not overly supporting ICC prosecutions.

Charles Taylor, now 74, was convicted of 11 charges by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague in 2012. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison and is currently serving this sentence at HM Prison Frankland in County Durham, England.

In addition to the thousands killed, countless others were raped or tortured, and millions were driven from their homes. The war lasted more than a decade, from 1991 to 2002.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted of war crimes in 2012

(AFP via Getty Images)

Taylor, whose actions have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people in a conflict that has spilled over into two nations, was the first former head of state convicted by an international tribunal of war crimes since judges at Nuremberg sentenced Karl Doenitz, an admiral who led Nazi Germany. for a brief period after Adolf Hitler’s suicide.

Former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was also charged with war crimes, but died in 2006 in his cell before a verdict was reached. He, like Taylor, denied the charges.

Crane, 71, agrees the 2003 invasion of Iraq was illegal and says a case could be made for both George W Bush and Tony Blair, for the hundreds of thousands killed. Right now, he says he is focusing on Russia and Ukraine.

He claims indicting Putin would be easier than indicting African warlord Taylor.

Crane says it took him two years to persuade diplomats and politicians that a chief international prosecutor “has the power to unseat a sitting head of state and then convince them it was the smart thing to do. do, and then convince them to put it back. done”.

He adds: “Right now in Ukraine we have 141 UN nations – almost 80% – who have done two things, one is to pass a resolution condemning the invasion, [and a second resolution] condemn human rights violations,” he said.

“We just have the political momentum.”

Tens of thousands have been killed in a decade of civil war in Sierra Leone

(AFP via Getty Images)

What does Crane say to those who point out that Taylor did not have a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, unlike Putin?

“I said if we use the fact that he has his thumb on the nuclear button to stop doing this, then we have two scenarios – the end of the world politically as we know it, or the end of the world physically. , as we know it,” he says.

“We have more than a dozen strong men in the world who are watching like crocodiles what we are doing to Vladimir Putin. And if we don’t do anything with Vladimir Putin, it will be a very dark world.

He says he believes China would move on Taiwan, North Korea would attack South Korea, and “a whole bunch of other people are doing really, really nasty things, because they realize the world doesn’t have the stomach to cope [someone who is] clearly a war criminal.

He adds: “We are at a very, very scary historic moment, over the next two months.

“I’m an old sea dog, I’ve been here a long time. I have never seen the world more dangerous than at this moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.