Former U.N. war crimes prosecutor calls for Putin to be held accountable for war crimes in Ukraine

Former U.N. war crimes prosecutor calls for Putin to be held accountable for war crimes in Ukraine

A former United Nations war crimes tribunal chief prosecutor is calling for President Vladimir Putin to be tried for abuses in Ukraine.

Carla Del Ponte, who oversaw U.N. investigations in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, said Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian are a clear violation of international law.

“Putin is a war criminal,” she said in an interview with Swiss newspaper Le Temps published Saturday.

Ms. Del Ponte said particularly shocking is the use of mass graves in Ukraine, which were also used in the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

“I hoped never to see mass graves again,” she said in a separate interview with the Swiss newspaper Blick. “These dead people have loved ones who don’t even know what’s become of them. That is unacceptable.”

Ms. Del Ponte also said allegations of Russian prisoners of war being tortured by Ukrainian forces should be investigated.

Policymakers in the U.S. have also stepped up calls to label Mr. Putin a war criminal and pressure the international community to hold him accountable.

On Thursday, the chairman and the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday introduced legislation to probe war crimes that Russia has committed in Ukraine.

The bill would direct President Biden to report to Congress on government efforts “to collect, analyze, and preserve evidence and information related to war crimes and any other atrocities committed during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The Biden administration has officially declared that Russia‘s invading forces in Ukraine are guilty of war crimes, citing Russia‘s targeting of civilian sites such as apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals, many of which had been clearly labeled as non-military locations.

It also cited U.N. figures estimating that at least 2,500 civilians have been killed or wounded in the fighting and the actual number is “likely higher.”

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that U.S. officials are “documenting and evaluating” evidence of potential war crimes by Russia and Mr. Putin in Ukraine to assist international investigations and “hold those responsible accountable.”

Mr. Blinken said the administration was working with private groups to build a possible case of war crimes against the Kremlin.

Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence called on the nation’s intelligence agencies to ramp up their work to document possible Russian military war crimes.

Members of the committee said the intelligence community is uniquely situated to document and analyze evidence of war crimes and has a long history of documenting human rights violations.

— This story includes wire reporting.