Since the onslaught of the Russian army into Ukraine on February 24, the Kremlin’s refusal to use certain words – notably its insistence on the term “special military operation” rather than “war” or “invasion” – forces us to to reconsider how to justly classify, in international criminal law, the acts committed in the course of this conflict, with a view to de-instrumentalizing the political rhetoric and restoring the real legal contours to the violence being committed.
The Rome Statute provides for criminal jurisdiction at the international level over individuals who commit any crime that affects the international community as a whole. It punishes violations of international humanitarian law and defines the most serious core international crimes: the crime of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide.
Professor Muriel Paradelle examines the elements that must be taken into account in order to classify the conflict in Ukraine as a crime against humanity under international law. A crime against humanity is defined as an act committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack, whether committed in the context of war or not. These acts include murder, torture, sexual violence, slavery, persecution, enforced disappearance, etc. Thus, can the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine be qualified as a crime against humanity within the meaning of Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court?