Dangerous for absolutely everyone: It's time for the world to change the rules of the game

30 January, 11:17 AM
UN flag (Photo:edgarwinkler / pixabay)

UN flag (Photo:edgarwinkler / pixabay)

The international peace and security architecture is not working

This year, the organization I have led for over 15 years was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was recognition of the efforts of the entire Ukrainian people fighting for freedom and democratic choice. It has also presented a unique opportunity for human rights activists to make accountability for Russian war crimes an international issue. After all, sustainable peace in our part of the world is impossible without justice.

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Russia uses war crimes as a way of waging war. Russian troops deliberately destroy residential buildings, churches, schools, and hospitals, fire upon evacuation corridors, detain people in filtration camps, carry out forced deportations of populations, kidnap, torture, and kill in the territories they occupy.

Russia wants to break resistance and occupy Ukraine by inflicting unspeakable pain upon the civilian population. We are documenting this pain.

Over the years, I have spoken to hundreds of survivors of Russian captivity. They spoke of how they were beaten, raped, electrocuted through their genitals, had their nails ripped out, had their knees drilled into, and were forced to write with their own blood. One woman spoke of how the Russians took out her eye with a spoon. There is no military justification for such actions. The Russians did these things simply because they could.

After the full-scale invasion, we joined forces with other human rights activists and initiated the Tribunal for Putin. We have built a nationwide network of investigators which operates throughout the country, including in the occupied territories. In just nine months, through our joint efforts, we have documented more than 26,000 war crimes cases.

This scale of war crimes confirms that the international peace and security architecture is not working. We live in a world that allowed Russia to occupy Crimea and part of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts with impunity. And which has, for so long, has been unable to stop the pain of millions of people in Ukraine. The UN failed to prevent this full-scale war and fulfill its mandate. And it is important to understand why this has been the case and what should be changed. This is necessary not only for people in Ukraine. A world in which the rules of the game are determined not by law, but by a state with powerful military potential and imperial ambitions, is dangerous for everyone without exception.

First: The link between peace and human rights is inextricable. Human rights are as important as military capability or economic stability. A state that ignores human rights obligations is not only a threat to its own citizens. Therefore, the international community must respond to systemic violations.

Second: Impunity increases the appetites of authoritarian regimes. For decades, the Russian military has committed war crimes in Chechnya, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Mali, Libya, and Syria, and has gone unpunished. The world did not even react to the annexation of Crimea, which became the first precedent in post-war Europe. Russia believed that it could do whatever it wanted.

Third: A world in which the rules are set by the law of whomever is stronger, rather than by international law, is dangerous for everyone. Cardinal reform of the international system of peace and security is needed to create effective guarantees for all countries and their citizens, regardless of participation in military blocs. Russia should be expelled from the United Nations Security Council for systematic violations of the UN Charter.

Fourth: War has a value dimension. This is not a war between two countries, but a war between two systems - authoritarianism and democracy. Russia wants to prove that rule of law, democracy. And human rights are false values because they cannot protect anyone during a war. And in order to answer this, it is necessary to change our approaches to justice for war crimes.

In the twentieth century, the civilized world took a significant step towards the establishment of law and justice. The Nuremberg Trials convicted the war criminals of the fallen Nazi regime.

In the 21st century, we must go further. Justice should not depend on the strength of the Russian regime. We cannot delay. It is necessary now to create an international tribunal and bring Putin, Lukashenko, and other war criminals to justice.

War turns people into numbers. We must ensure justice for all the victims of war and return to the people their names. And we must prove that justice exists, even if it is delayed.

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