Putin should face global arrest warrant: ex-UN prosecutor who investigated war crimes in Rwanda, Yugoslavia


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The former United Nations chief prosecutor who oversaw investigations of war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia has called for an international arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In an interview published Saturday for the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Carla Del Ponte, decried the Russian autocrat as a “war criminal” for orchestrating Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Left, former U.N. chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Left, former U.N. chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 
(Keystone via AP; Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

In interviews given to Swiss media to mark the release of her latest book, the Swiss lawyer who oversaw U.N. investigations in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia said clear war crimes were being committed in Ukraine.

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She said she was particularly shocked by the use of mass graves in Russia’s war on Ukraine, which recalls the worst of the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Military gear left behind by Russian soldiers lay scattered near a tank during a military sweep by Ukrainian soldiers after the Russians' withdrawal from the area on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 1, 2022. 

Military gear left behind by Russian soldiers lay scattered near a tank during a military sweep by Ukrainian soldiers after the Russians’ withdrawal from the area on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 1, 2022. 
((AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd))

“I hoped never to see mass graves again,” she told the newspaper Blick. “These dead people have loved ones who don’t even know what’s become of them. That is unacceptable.”

Other war crimes she identified in Ukraine included attacks on civilians, the destruction of civilian buildings and even the demolishing of entire villages.

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She said the investigation in Ukraine would be easier than that in Yugoslavia because the country itself had requested an international probe. The current ICC chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, visited Ukraine last month.

If the ICC finds proof of war crimes, she said, “you must go up the chain of command until you reach those who took the decisions.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to female flight attendants in comments broadcast on state television on Saturday, March 5, 2022. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to female flight attendants in comments broadcast on state television on Saturday, March 5, 2022. 
(Reuters Video)

Del Ponte said it would be possible to bring even Putin to account, pointing to the investigation of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic while he was still in office. 

Milosevic was arrested in the early 2000s on charges of war crimes after orchestrating a brutal campaign of ethnic cleaning against non-Serbs during the breakup and collapse of Yugoslavia. He died in his prison cell while awaiting trial in The Hague.  

“Who would have thought then that he would one day be judged? Nobody,” she told Blick.

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Del Ponte added that investigations should be carried out into possible war crimes committed by both sides, pointing to reports about the alleged torture of some Russian prisoners of war by Ukrainian forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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