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Putin set to face global arrest warrant: Former UN prosecutor who investigated war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia


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

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

At left are former UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(Keystone via AP; Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

In interviews with Swiss media on the occasion of the release of her latest book, the Swiss lawyer who oversaw UN investigations in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia said clear war crimes were committed in Ukraine.

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

Putin set to face global arrest warrant: Former UN prosecutor who investigated war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia

Military equipment left behind by Russian soldiers lay strewn near a tank during a military sweep by Ukrainian soldiers after the Russians withdrew 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 Blick newspaper. “These dead have loved ones who don’t even know what has become of them. This is unacceptable.”

Other war crimes she identified in Ukraine included attacks on civilians, the destruction of civilian buildings and even the demolition 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 investigation. The current ICC chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, visited Ukraine last month.

If the ICC finds evidence of war crimes, she said, “you have to go up the chain of command to those who made the decisions.”

Putin set to face global arrest warrant: Former UN prosecutor who investigated war crimes in Rwanda and Yugoslavia

Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed flight attendants in comments broadcast on state television on Saturday, March 5, 2022.
(Reuters video)

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

Milosevic was arrested in the early 2000s for war crimes after orchestrating a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing 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 ever be put on trial? 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 of alleged torture of some Russian POWs by Ukrainian forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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