Ukrainian court begins first war crimes trial for Russian troops

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MUKACHEVO, Ukraine – A court in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, began hearing a case against a sergeant on Friday. Vadim Shishimarin, the first Russian soldier to go to trial for war crimes. He is accused of shooting a 72-year-old man in the northeastern Sumi region of Ukraine in late February.

Shishimarin, 21, a member of Russia’s 4th Guards Kantemirvskaya tank division, is in the custody of Ukraine. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova said in a statement on Facebook on Wednesday that he had been charged with “violating the laws and customs of war combined with premeditated murder” and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office said Friday that the hearing The Solomyansky District Court in Kiev had a “preparatory meeting.” The footage was shared by the Ukrainian media Showed A handcuffed Russian soldier enters the courtroom wearing a blue-gray hoodie, his eyes downcast.

According to the Associated Press, the activity lasted about 15 minutes. Shishimarin was told his rights and the jury rejected the trial. The charge sheet of his case will be read on May 16.

Shenimarin is accused of killing an unarmed civilian by pushing a bicycle on the side of a road in the village of Chupakhivka, who fired several rounds from his Kalashnikov rifle on February 28, Venediktova said in a statement. Venedictova Says On Friday, Shishimarin, along with four other soldiers, fled the fighting in the Sumi area in a stolen car, according to Twitter.

The man was talking on his phone, and “ordered an army sergeant to kill a civilian so he would not report them to Ukrainian guards,” the statement said. “The man died on the spot just a few dozen meters from his house.”

What are war crimes, and is Russia doing them in Ukraine?

The statement did not elaborate on how Russian troops ended up in Ukrainian custody. A video posted on YouTube on March 19 shows Shishimarin being interviewed by Ukrainian video blogger Volodymyr Jolkin, who says he was detained in Ukraine when his column was surrounded as they tried to bring their wounded back to Russia.

In a video posted by the Ukrainian Security Service, Shishimarin said he had been instructed to shoot the man in Sumi. True, this does not absolve him of responsibility.

“What he knew was an illegal order is not a legal defense under international law,” said Dormat Groom, a Penn State Dickinson law professor and former war crimes prosecutor who advises Venedictov’s office.

Shishimarin seems to be collaborating – and he’s young – although he can get a light sentence, Groom said.

Shishimarin is represented by Ukrainian court-appointed attorney Viktor Ovsyanikov, who told the AP that the case against his client was strong but that the court would still have to decide what evidence would be allowed.

“For me it just works,” Ovsyanikov told the New York Times. “It’s very important to make sure my client’s human rights are protected, to show that we are a different country.”

The world’s view on Ukraine, and top international law experts advising Ukrainian prosecutors, Ukraine is likely to pursue justice and other books that will follow, says Robert Goldman, a war crimes and human rights expert at Washington College of Law at American University. , Says this week’s post.

Prisoners of war have the right to be tried in an independent and impartial court. Ukraine is also a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees a strong and appropriate process, Goldman said.

Although top Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, are unlikely to ever face trial, Ukraine has stepped in to investigate war crimes. The U.S. State Department announced in March that U.S. intelligence agencies had seen specific evidence of war crimes committed by Russian troops and that the Biden administration was supporting Ukraine’s efforts to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes.

Groom called the Ukrainian prosecutors an “experienced, competent group” that was working effectively despite the ongoing fighting.

Venediktova said her office had opened more than 11,000 war crimes cases since the war began. Prosecutors filed their first complaint, in absentia, against 10 Russian service members in a Ukrainian court on war crimes charges in the suburb of Bucha in Kyiv, where investigators uncovered evidence of torture and mutilation after Russian troops withdrew. Moscow has denied the allegations.

Human rights and legal experts say the decision to keep Ukrainian soldiers on trial for war crimes is unusual. However, prosecutors have the benefit of giving access to new evidence, including eyewitness testimony.

“The evidence is very fresh in Ukraine, and it is being collected very professionally from what I have seen,” Goldman said.

Prisoners of war cannot be tried just for taking part in armed conflict. The Geneva Convention, which sets out the rules for conducting war, calls for the repatriation of prisoners of war as soon as possible after the end of hostilities. However, it is legal for Ukrainian prosecutors to try Shishimarin and other captured Russian soldiers for war crimes, including the intentional killing of civilians, Goldman said.

“This is just the beginning of a long and complicated process of bringing the perpetrators to justice and bringing the victims back to justice,” Venedictova wrote on Twitter on Friday. “We will spare no effort to document and investigate every crime committed against the people of Ukraine.”

The case would be an important test of rarely used Ukrainian law that prohibits violations of the rules of war, Groom said.

Some legal experts have expressed concern about the video of interrogations of detained Russian soldiers by Ukrainians, in which Jolkin interviewed Shishimarin. These videos may violate the Third Geneva Convention, which states that detainees must be “protected against violence or intimidation and insults and public curiosity.”

Now that Shishimarin has been charged with war crimes “before a properly constituted court,” he is a criminal defendant and could be photographed as part of court proceedings, Groom said.

The UN Human Rights Council has voted to deepen Ukraine’s war crimes investigation

In addition to the Ukrainian investigation, the International Criminal Court and the United Nations are examining alleged abuses during the war. European courts provide another way to try.

Shishimarin’s trial could deter Russian forces from committing war crimes, Grum said.

“It sends a clear message to other soldiers at different levels that if they commit a crime they will really have to think twice,” he said, “including Putin himself.”

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