Amid ongoing revelations of atrocities committed against Ukrainians at the hands of Russian forces, USIP’s Lauren Baillie says efforts to investigate and prosecute these crimes will require creativity and “the ability to think more broadly about how we bring perpetrators to justice and recognize the unique needs of victims.”

U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.

Transcript

Julie Mason
Lauren Baillie is Senior Program Officer for Atrocity Prevention at the United States Institute of Peace. She joins me now. Good morning, Lauren.

Lauren Baillie
Good morning, Julie.

Julie Mason
It's grim subject matter, but we must confront it. Atrocities.

Lauren Baillie
Yes, yes it is. And so just to give a brief explanation of what atrocities are too, what we're looking at is war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and ethnic cleansing, so some of the world's worst crimes and those things that the international community has made a global commitment to never happening again.

Julie Mason
And I feel like we're seeing plenty of that, just eyewitness accounts–reliable eyewitness accounts–on TV. The investigation is underway, even as the work continues.

Lauren Baillie
That's right. That's right. There are a number of investigative efforts happening at the moment led by the Ukrainians in Ukraine. They have been ready for this in some ways since the 2014 invasion of the Donbas. Ukraine's Prosecutor General's office has been strengthening its protections and responses to war crimes and crimes against humanity. And we've really see them put that, those efforts to use.

Julie Mason
You found that there are more than 7,000 investigations opened by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General.

Lauren Baillie
That's right. And that actually comes from her directly. The U.S. Institute of Peace held an event in partnership with RFK human rights a couple of weeks ago, where Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told us spoke about the work that she's doing. There are more than 7,000 investigations ongoing. And just this past week, she issued her first indictments against Russian soldiers, there are 10. They're calling them this despicable 10, who were involved in the massacres in Bucha. And so they are currently looking for them in order to arrest them and bring them to justice in Kyiv.

Julie Mason
That's right, because that was my question like, I mean, a lot of times in this country, we indict people who live overseas, like Chinese hackers, for example. And there's just it's, I mean, it's symbolic. But is there a way to actually prosecute those who have who have undertaken some of these atrocities in Ukraine?

Lauren Baillie
So there is and there, the hard part to this is actually getting them into custody, right? If they're in Russia, it's very difficult for Ukraine to actually try them. And in absentia, trials don't actually carry the same weight or credibility as a trial with a defendant present, you want them to fully defend themselves and to attempt to exonerate themselves. So that's going to be the challenge both for Ukraine for the International Criminal Court. And for other states who are interested in investigating the situation in Ukraine.

Julie Mason 
You write that accountability is going to require creativity. What do you mean by that?

Lauren Baillie
What I mean by that is, is the ability to think more broadly about how we both bring perpetrators to justice and recognize the unique needs of victims and receiving justice, I think at the center of these efforts are the Ukrainian people who have suffered really vastly under this conflict, and so they should be the center of all of our focus in terms of thinking about criminal prosecution, reparations, psychosocial support, and support for trauma healing. They really should really be at the center. And there's a range of ways in which we can provide them that support and a range of ways in which we can prosecute perpetrators.

Julie Mason
It's overwhelming to think of the sort of collective damage that's been done to the people of Ukraine. Like, you know, when you think about post war, getting back to normal life, getting back to normal, people are just going to be bearing these sort of, you know, scars, the psychological scars for so long. And, you know, in addition to the physical.

Lauren Baillie
Yes, I completely agree. And it's something that I think that that the international community should be taking into account as we start to think about investigations of these crimes, as what we're seeing are people's lives just torn completely apart. They're displaced from their homes, some of them likely won't be able to return. When they do return, they're coming back to to a significant loss of property or loss of community, loss of family members. And so as we begin these investigations, we need to be sensitive to the extent of that loss. And a lot of that will be coordinating investigative efforts to ensure that when victims are speaking to investigators, they're doing it maybe once or twice and no more than that, because what happens over time as investigations unfold is that victims are really, they can be traumatized by the efforts of investigators. And so as we move into this process of trying to respond to these atrocities, we really should be considering how to best respect victims at the center of that process.

Julie Mason
And Lauren, what is the U.S. part in this? What's the role for the U.S. considering we have that difficult relationship with the ICC?

Lauren Baillie
So we do have a difficult relationship with the ICC. But I actually think that that's changing somewhat and USIP was fortunate enough to have prosecutor Khan come speak at the institute this past week. And what we saw was, I think, a little more hope that the U.S. versus us coordination with the International Criminal Court, we are supporting the International Criminal Court with investigative assistance, both have extra capacity, and then with intelligence sharing, and our State Department officials have been pretty open about that process. And so that will be something that the U.S. should continue to do. And then to look for further open opening for collaboration. I should say, too, the U.S. has also extensively supported the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's office, we've really done a lot to develop their investigative capacity for war crimes and crimes against humanity. And that's something that will really benefit the Ukrainian people moving forward.

Julie Mason
Lauren Bailey is Senior Program Officer for atrocity prevention at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Lauren, thank you so much for joining me.

Lauren Bailey
Thank you, Julie.

Julie Mason
Good to talk.

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