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David Crane Provides Remarks to NYT and 1a Podcast by NPR on Russian Rights Abuses in Ukraine and Potential War Crimes

Posted on Thursday 4/14/2022

College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence David Crane L’80 provides remarks to both the New York Times and the 1a podcast by NPR on ‘clear patterns’ of Russian rights abuses in Ukraine, and whether President Vladimir Putin be tried for Russian war crimes. 

As war continues to rage in Ukraine, investigators from nearly a dozen countries are continually investigating for evidence of war crimes committed by Russia and Putin. Investigators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have found that some of the atrocities, including reports of rapes, abductions, attacks on civilian targets, and the use of banned munitions, may constitute war crimes. 

Crane is confident that the International Criminal Court or some other judicial body would find legal grounds to charge the Russian president. In a new white paper, “Russian War Crimes Against Ukraine. The Breach of International Humanitarian Law by the Russian Federation,” Crane lays out an indictment of numerous war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression from February 24, 2022, to April 1, 2022, during the invasion of Ukraine. 

He claims that even if Putin is never arrested and remains the leader of Russia, the legal and diplomatic consequences of a war crimes indictment would severely undermine his credibility. It would be as if “there’s like an ash mark on his forehead,” Mr. Crane said. “There’s no good options for him.”

In the 1a Podcast at around the 6 minute mark, Crane explains that most of the images and content we are seeing in Ukraine this week is a tsunami of data, which will then need to evolve into verifiable evidence for use in court to prove war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed beyond a reasonable doubt.

Crane previously served as the chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, an international war crimes tribunal that convicted the former president of Liberia, Charles G. Taylor.

He explains at around the 20:30 minute mark in the 1a Podcast, “We’ve already done this before. We’ve already created a hybrid international war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone and we’ve already created that with a mandate of prosecuting a head of state for the very same crimes that we are prosecuting Vladimir Putin.”