This is his first time leveling up accusations of “genocide” against his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putinfor the atrocities his forces have committed in Ukraine. But President Joe Biden be clear about why he did so.
“I call it genocide because it’s becoming increasingly clear that Putin is just trying to erase even the idea of himself being Ukrainian,” Biden told reporters during a trip to Iowa on Tuesday.
He added that it will be up to international lawyers to decide if what is happening in Ukraine qualifies as genocide, “but I certainly do.”
But is his claim of genocide valid? NBC News take a look.
What is genocide?
Created by a Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1944, partly in response systematic killing of Jews by the regime of Adolf Hitler in fascist GermanyGenocide was then defined by the United Nations as any act “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.”
As defined by the United Nations, such acts can include murder, serious bodily or mental harm, intentional homicide, birth control measures, and forced transfer of a child. em.
This has been codified by the UN as an independent crime in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocidecalled Genocide Convention.
The US has its own genocide law, “a federal law that basically takes its definition from the genocide convention so it doesn’t really differ from it,” said William Schabas, a professor of International Law at Middlesex University. in London, told NBC News. fourth phone.
Who can be prosecuted?
The Genocide Convention stipulates that everyone can be prosecuted and punished for the crime of genocide, including constitutionally elected leaders.
Having adopted child the United Nations definition of genocide when it was established in 2002, International Criminal Court The statute stipulates that anyone who violates, commands, aids, and even incites genocide can be prosecuted. A separate court, International Court of Justicewhich deals with nations, may also stipulate that states are responsible for genocide.
In the US, the State Department makes the decision if mass killings pose a threat of genocide and will gather evidence for a long time before reaching a verdict.
Last month, the US State Department – which it said was only the eighth time the US had concluded that genocide had been committed since the Holocaust – discovered that members of the military in Myanmar had commit genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya community.
Since August 2017, more than 700,000 members of the predominantly Muslim Rohingya group have left Buddhist-majority Myanmar for neighboring Bangladeshwhere they live in overcrowded refugee camps. The refugees have accused Myanmar security forces of murder, mass rape and arson to drive them out. The military denies the allegations.
US law does not require any specific action after the government declares genocide, but the designation could increase international pressure.
What could constitute genocide in Ukraine?
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden said he was committed to genocide because it was clear Putin was trying to “wipe out the idea of maybe even being Ukrainian”.
Paola Gaeta, a professor of international law at the Geneva Graduate Institute in Switzerland, said this explanation could fall under the international definition of genocide if proven.
However, she added that the burden of proof is very high, adding that proving genocide will be very difficult as the war continues.
“To prove evidence of genocide, you need to show that there is a government policy to do it, or at the individual level that those individuals want to destroy Ukrainians as criminals,” she said. a country.
Biden’s assessment has no legal validity, although his personal views carry weight because, as an important head of state, his remarks can mobilize public opinion and help shape responses. international response, she added.
Will you ever be prosecuted?
“It takes years to prosecute the crime of genocide,” Schabas said, adding that proceedings in international courts are lengthy and time-consuming.
“So it’s not possible to make a quick decision on this,” he said.
Things happened in Ukraine “that would be the elements of evidence if you were trying to convict Russia of genocide, but I haven’t seen anything that comes close to what you need to show, because you will need to show that Russia intends to destroy the group,” he said.
He added that “there has to be an absolute standard of certainty” that a state or an individual has committed genocide before it can be warranted.
“It’s due to the gravity of the charge,” he said. “It must be hard to prove, because if you can prove it, it’s really catastrophic.”