Pentagon withholding evidence in Russia war crimes case: Senators | ICC News

Defence chief grilled on not cooperating with International Criminal Court prosecution, cites wariness of ‘reciprocity’.

United States senators have grilled the top of the Pentagon for what they known as a failure to cooperate with an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

Speaking throughout a Senate committee listening to on Thursday, Democrat Dick Durbin stated he had been instructed by the worldwide court docket’s chief prosecutor that the US Defense Department was refusing to cooperate in the case, which it launched in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

In March, the court docket issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Durbin stated the court docket’s prime prosecutor, Karim Khan, instructed him that, in contrast to the Pentagon, the US State Department and Justice Department had been cooperating with the investigation.

“Why are you reluctant to share the evidence that we have gathered in the United States through the Department of Defense for those who are holding [Russian President] Vladimir Putin accountable for his war crimes?” Durbin requested Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.

In a glancing response, Austin stated the Pentagon “firmly supports the goal of holding Russia accountable for its violations in Ukraine”. But he added, “I will always prioritise the protection of US military personnel in anything that we do.”

He later stated: “I do have concerns about reciprocity going forward.”

The response underscores the US’s long-held wariness in direction of the ICC. The authorities has beforehand voiced considerations that becoming a member of or supporting the court docket may open the door to additional prosecutions of US navy personnel or political leaders, or seem to legitimise ICC investigations of US personnel overseas.

The court docket grew to become operational in 2002, 4 years after 120 nations ratified its authorized foundation, the Rome Statute.

Under the statute, the court docket has jurisdiction to prosecute worldwide crimes — together with crimes in opposition to humanity, war crimes, crimes of aggression and genocide — if they’re dedicated in the territory or by a nationwide of a celebration to the treaty, if that celebration is “unable” or “unwilling” to take action.

Still, varied US administrations have taken vastly totally different approaches to the court docket, starting from reluctantly supportive to overtly antagonistic.

For his half, President Joe Biden has signalled extra cooperation underneath his administration, together with by lifting sanctions that his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, imposed on ICC officers.

In March, Biden additionally known as the court docket’s arrest warrant for Putin “justified”. That got here after Congress final yr handed laws that broadened Washington’s capacity to share evidence with the ICC.

When Durbin pushed Austin on why the Defense Department was taking a distinct strategy than the Justice and State Departments, the Pentagon chief demurred.

“Why we would hold back evidence against this war criminal Vladimir Putin and the terrible things he’s doing, I don’t understand at all,” stated Durbin. “You must have a compelling reason not to cooperate, what is it?”

Austin responded: “Again I will always prioritise protection of our military personnel. That’s my concern.”

Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican, added that prosecuting Putin and the Russians accountable for war crimes would have a US nationwide safety profit.

“Mr Khan says we have a lot of valuable information that could accelerate his prosecution not only of Putin but of others,” Graham stated.

At a listening to final month, Graham praised the Justice Department for working with its Ukrainian counterpart to assist pursue war crimes prosecutions in opposition to Russia and bashed the Defense Department for hindering such efforts. At the time, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco declined to touch upon inner discussions.

A State Department spokesperson has stated the US helps “a range of international investigations and inquiries into war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine”, together with these performed by the ICC’s prosecutor.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a shock go to to The Hague final week, calling for a brand new worldwide tribunal to carry Putin accountable for the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia isn’t a member of the ICC and rejects its jurisdiction. Moscow denies committing atrocities in Ukraine.

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