Russia’s “special
military operation” in Ukraine which the West calls an invasion and the ensuing
aftermath in which thousands have died and millions made refugees, has now
reached the doors of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague,
Netherlands. Earlier this month, the ICC launched a probe into alleged war
crimes being committed by Russia in Ukraine.

The Kremlin has
been accused of attacking civilian populations. Further, Russia’s move to
attack a nuclear powerplant triggering global concern, caused an unprecedented
heightening of tensions. At such a time, the West has imposed what it believes
are crippling sanctions on the Russian petro-state and nations are doing all
that they can to put pressure on Vladimir Putin to end the bloodshed.

What is the
International Criminal Court?

The International
Criminal Court, situated in the Netherlands, investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression, according to its website. 

The ICC was initially created by a treaty called the Rome Statute, before the United Nations but it currently operates independently. 

What are war crimes? 

The ICC has come up with precise definitions for what constitutes war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. As part of its definitions, a war crime is defined as a violation of the Geneva Conventions which includes the targeting of civilian populations in conflict zones or otherwise. 

Can Putin be charged with having committed war crimes? 

According to Karim Khan, ICC’s chief prosecutor who spoke to CNN, intentionally targeting civilians or civilian objects is a crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. 

“And even if there’s a military necessity, there’s a clear obligation upon parties to a conflict to not use disproportionate force, to make sure the ordnance used and the weapons don’t have a very wide footprint in heavy civilian areas,” Khan said. 

In this regard, Moscow’s use of vaccum bombs in areas housing civilian populations has been described as a war crime by some.