Will amnesty for Russian war crimes be the price of a Ukraine truce?
The evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine is piled high, but many wonder whether prosecution of those responsible, including Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, will ever be possible. In fact, offering potential perpetrators amnesty from war crimes may be a controversial part of a future peace agreement, say experts.
“Amnesty provisions in peace agreements are almost invariably controversial, with many critics seeing them as rewards for aggression,” writes Cesar Jaramillo, an expert on armed conflict and head of Project Ploughshares. “While such criticisms are valid, it is important to acknowledge that some level of amnesty has proven to be a necessary trade-off to achieve successful negotiations.”
One recent example is the inclusion of amnesty provisions in the Colombian peace process between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Critics argued that granting amnesty to individuals involved in grave human rights violations would undermine justice and accountability, notes Jaramillo.
Last week, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Alice Jill Edwards said she was alarmed by “reports and testimonies” of the widespread use of torture by Russian forces in Ukraine, which could indicate that the severe abuse of Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilians is “state-endorsed” by Moscow.
Her report adds fuel to the fire of war crime allegations against Russia following the International Criminal Court issuing a warrant for the arrest of President Putin for alleged responsibility for “the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.
But Jaramillo and others say that a negotiated settlement is the only way to avoid terrible casualties and deaths from the conflict, including the potential to drag in other countries or the use of nuclear weapons.
“The likelihood of either side in this brutal war ever being in a position to dictate settlement terms to the other is remote, and that means negotiations are inevitable,” writes Ernie Regehr in The Hill Times this week.
“There have been calls for the prosecution of individuals, including Russian president Vladimir Putin, for war crimes. But the pursuit of this form of justice, at this time, could well render a negotiated settlement impossible. Instead, a pragmatic measure of amnesty might be necessary,” adds Jaramillo.
- Read “Ukraine needs a peace plan – and someone to champion it” by Cesar Jaramillo, published by Project Ploughshares on June 20, 2023
(Cover: Crosses are seen at a forest grave site after an exhumation in the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian forces, in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine. Via Shutterstock)