Original Author: The New York Times
A day ahead of their meeting with the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, several members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Wednesday that they believed President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had committed genocide in Ukraine.
Their remarks, made separately to reporters at The Hague, offered a potential preview of Thursday’s meeting with Karim Khan, the I.C.C.’s chief prosecutor. The Congress members, both Republicans and Democrats, were in agreement in characterizing Mr. Putin’s actions as genocide — a legally meaningful term in the context of the court, which has begun pursuing justice for crimes committed during Russia’s invasion.
Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, said that Mr. Putin “tried to erase a culture, a people and a religion, and that is the definition of genocide,” according to The Associated Press. Representative Ann Wagner, a Republican from Missouri, referred to Mr. Putin’s “crimes against humanity, the downright genocide that this man has perpetrated.” And Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, said the Russian leader had “himself made the case for genocide and his behavior subsequently has filled in blanks.”
For the international court to add genocide charges to its list of investigations related to the war in Ukraine would require an especially high burden of proof that Mr. Putin committed atrocities with the intent to destroy a particular group. In the meeting with Mr. Khan at the court on Thursday, the committee members will examine “the evidence itself,” Mr. McCaul said, and discuss how the United States can aid in the collection of more intelligence to prove its case.
The I.C.C. issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Putin in March, accusing him of authorizing the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children. The arrest warrant has complicated his freedom of movement — in July, Mr. Putin canceled a trip to South Africa, which would have been legally obliged to arrest him.
Established in 2002, the court is an independent standing body that investigates war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, but Mr. Putin is unlikely to face trial before it. The court’s rules bar it from trying defendants in absentia, and Russia is unlikely to surrender its own officials.
The United States has generally kept its distance from the court, fearful that participation could pave the way for the prosecution of Americans, but the Biden administration has worked more closely with the court. In July, President Biden ordered the government to share evidence of Russian war crimes with the I.C.C., a major shift in American policy.
President Biden said for the first time in April that Mr. Putin was perpetuating genocide, emphasizing that it was his personal view and not a legal determination. He first used the description offhandedly during a speech at a bioethanol plant in Iowa, then later reaffirmed his choice of words.
“Yes, I called it genocide,” he said. “It has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be Ukrainian.”