>> we need decisions from the security council for peace in ukraine. if we do not know how to implement this, we can do two things. remove russia from the council so it cannot block decisions about its own war. the other option is to reform the security council to work for peace. if there is not an alternative we should dissolve the security council altogether. >> russia's ambassador to the u.n. denied accusations of war crimes and repeated claims that bodies on the streets in bucha were not there when russia left the town. >> we need to cut out the tumor that is consuming ukraine and will begin to consume russia. we will achieve that goal. i hope sooner rather than later because there is no other outcome. we are not shooting civilian targets. this is precisely why we are not advancing as fast as many expected. we are not acting like americans
and their allies in iraq and syria, razing entire cities. we felt great pity because these people are close to us. >> the european union has announced it will hold all fossil fuel imports from russia but it does not give a specific date. around 150 russian diplomats have been expelled by other countries in the past two days. the u.s. will announce further sanctions on wednesday. peru's president has lifted a curfew just a day after he ordered it to be enforced. there have been days of protests against the rising cost-of-living. demonstrators ignored the curfew order. more people have died during the fighting in the last week. the news continues on al jazeera after "inside story." ♪
>> is russia committing atrocities in ukraine? images of bodies in civilian clothes in bucha have led to international condemnation and calls for a war crimes investigation against moscow. but can the accusations be proven in court? this is "inside story." hello and welcome to the program. ukraine's president has said negotiations are the only way to end the conflict with russia.
after the discovery of bodies in civilian clothes in the town of bucha, some with their hands bound to their backs, zelenskyy says talks with moscow will not be easy. he wants vladimir putin tried for war crimes, accusing him of slaughtering civilians. russia has denied the allegations saying ukraine's special forces stage the killings. several eu nations including germany and france are expelling russian diplomats and the eu has announced a new round of sanctions against moscow. some images may be distressing. >> surrounded by heavy security and the media, president volodymyr zelenskyy visited the town of bucha near kyiv after witnessing the devastation. he made a promise that justice would be done. >> it is war crimes that will be recognized as genocide by the world. you are here and you will see what has happened. we know about thousands killed
and tortured, people with cut limbs, women who have been raped and children who have been murdered. we know there is so much more. this is genocide. >> people here began to bury the dead in a 45 foot trench dug in the grounds of a church. 68 bodies at first. some victims of war, others who died of natural causes. the priest has to negotiate with the russians who occupied bucha to allow the burials, but as the war dragged on, more burials. in total, 130 were buried here. the mass grave was needed. all across bucha the dead late in the street for weeks. even now they wait to be picked up by undertakers. at the burial site, people wrapped some of the bodies in black plastic, a little dignity in death. families took solace in the fact they were buried next to the church many had come to be wed or attend sunday service before the war.
the priest leans on his faith to deal with what he has witnessed. >> there is a lot of hatred and injustice that people feel. but christians should forgive. forgive does not mean to forget. only god can judge. >> somebody's have been moved to morgues in and around the town since bucha was retaken by ukrainian forces. >> i'm here looking for my brother. we talked every day. until now i do not know where his body is. i am going to try the morgue. someone sent me a picture and told me i need to come to identify him. i hope he is there. >> this is likely to be one of the largest burial sites in the town but it is by no means the only one. across the city people were burying their dead wherever they could. in their backyards, common areas, anywhere where they might be able to give the dead some dignity and respect.
ukraine's attorney general in kyiv gathering evidence of potential war crimes is now the priority. >> we started our investigations actually from the 24th of february this year and now we have more than 4000 cases of war crimes and 2000 which are connected to war crimes. nowadays, bucha -- alexander: justice for war crimes is a concern -- reporter: justice for war crimes is a concern for the future. what is available as quickly grabbed by those who have little of their old lives left. al jazeera, bucha. >> russia's foreign minister has said bodies in bucha were put there after the russians left.
sergei lavrov warns the accusations could threaten international peace. >> a fake act was arranged in bucha after the russian military left in accordance with the plans and agreements reached. there was a staging a few days later which is widely promoted now by ukrainian representatives. folly: u.s. president joe biden says there is strong evidence of atrocities he said were committed by russian troops. he has called for president putin to face trial. >> we have to gather the information. we have to continue to provide ukraine with the weapons they need to continue to fight. and we have together all the details so this can be a war crimes trial. this guy is brutal. what is happening in bucha's outrageous end everyone sees it. folly: let's now bring in our guests. in berlin, hugh williamson, the
director for you the europe and central asia division of human rights watch. in moscow, andrey ontikov, political analyst. and in new jersey, alexander hinton director of the center for genocide and human rights. what is considered a war crime? according to the u.n. it is the breach of international law committed against civilians or enemy combatants during an armed conflict. the geneva convention defines a war crime as their willful killing, torture, or inhumane treatment not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully in an unprovoked manner. the international criminal court has expanded the list by including crimes such as forced pregnancy, intended to affect the ethnic makeup of the population.
let me start with you, alexander hinton in new jersey. did the images out of bucha meet the definition of a war crime? alexander: absolutely. it is one piece of a larger puzzle that makes the case were crimes have taken place. you need to look at this in the larger context of the violence that has been perpetrated by russia and ukraine -- by russia in ukraine. the bombing that has taken place, and is expected, people go back into towns that were held, i expect we are going to have many buchas. certainly in this larger context, it meets the definition of war crimes. folly: the ukrainian president has accused russia of genocide. what constitutes genocide? alexander: we think of war crimes as attacks on
noncombatants during the course of an armed conflict. genocide involves the intent to destroy in whole or in part national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups because of who they are. they are different acts, not just killing, everything from killing to deportation. folly: do you believe that is happening in ukraine right now? alexander: we need to gather more evidence. what we do know is happening -- there is a systematicicty. it is one of a number of atrocities known together as -- crimes and the international community has agreed that all states -- the international community has a responsibility to protect populations against
atrocities being perpetrated and this is clearly the case in ukraine. folly: shocking images out of bucha no doubt. moscow has denied that soldiers had anything to do with these atrocities and says the images are fabricated. we heard from sergei lavrov, we heard from the russian abbasid are at the u.n. as well. what do you think? do you think these killings could have been carried out by the russian military? andrey: i do not think so. the russian troops withdrew from bucha on the 31st of march and the same day, there is recorded video where russian troops had withdrawn. he did not mention anything about those bodies. he said everything is ok in the city. but when the ukrainian army has entered the city a couple of days after the russian withdrawal, eventually we have seen those images.
the question is why. why didn't anybody mention that -- those bodies before the ukrainian army entered the city? this is the real question. second, there is no secret the bodies of the dead people start to decay very promptly. it is not about days or weeks, it is about hours. if those bodies lay for weeks or days -- they would have signs of decay and the smell of course. it seems to be that those bodies were brought there by the ukrainian army to make a so-called show. another point we hear the word genocide -- to my mind the ukrainian army, the ukrainian government is trying now to
retake the russian stories. russia has accused the ukrainian government of genocide in the donbas region but now we hear the accusations against russia. folly: i hear what you're saying. let me bring in hugh williamson. response to what you have just heard about the dates. russia says it withdrew on the 31st of march. they say the bodies were probably brought there by the ukrainian forces. human rights watch has been to bucha. you started investigating. what have you seen, what have you found? hugh: human rights watch published a report the weekend which looked at apparent war crimes by russian forces in the first half of march. in bucha and elsewhere. in bucha we identified a case based on many interviews and
other evidence where russian soldiers executed ukrainian man at short distance in the back of the head by shooting him while he was kneeling on the pavement on the street in bucha. this was during the russian acknowledged occupation of bucha . we also published a statement about evidence in the first half of march of a woman whose husband was shot. we do not know the circumstances of the shooting, but the russian troops denied her access to her husband's body for many days. so my colleagues have been in bucha for the last couple of days, today and tomorrow, beginning an investigation about the aspect of the bodies. we do not know the circumstances in which those 300 or 400 bodies were killed. we are extremely concerned these could amount to war crimes because we have identified at
least one example of a war crime by russian soldiers in bucha. we are entirely unconvinced by the russian explanation that somehow the bodies were placed there. we find entirely unconvincing. folly: this is not the first incident which has led to accusations of war crimes being leveled at russia. there was the incident of the theater in mariupol. hugh: exactly. human rights watch has document and other cases of the targeting of civilians, of buildings where civilians are staying. for instance, the theater, schools, hospitals. the blocking of humanitarian aid to cities under siege like mariu pol. the use of banned weapons in ukraine such as antipersonnel land mines and cluster munitions . as well as other examples of summary executions.
we documented a case of rape by a russian soldier in eastern ukraine in early march. we should also say we have documented issues around the way ukraine has handled prisoners of war. we published two statements on concerns about that issue as well. folly: i will ask you about the accusations of genocide that russia has level. ukraine for what is happening -- has leveled at ukraine for what is happening in the donbas region. in response to human rights watch, coming back to what is happening now, that the evidence is fabricated -- how is russia going to be able to prove this? andrey: how is human rights watch or anybody else going to prove that russia is responsible?
i doubt that we can rely on human rights watch's investigation. the problem is now we hear the accusations against russia, but we also see that human rights watch and other organizations just close their eyes on any crimes committed by the ukrainian forces. for example, lately we are seeing the exchange of prisoners between russia and ukraine. we got our prisoners with fingers cut off and genitals cut off. does human rights watch think -- i don't think so. a couple of weeks before the ukrainian army has bombed the city of donetsk with cluster bombs. where was human rights watch at that moment? i don't know, so we cannot rely on human rights watch. maybe we need an independent investigation. folly: who would lead that? human rights watch is considered an independent organization.
andrey: previously i mentioned why we cannot rely on human rights watch. folly: williamson -- hugh williamson, please respond. hugh: absolutely. if there is evidence of the use of -- the abuse of prisoners of war we would certainly examine that. you have published two statements which raise concern about what were crimes against russian prisoners of war by ukraine -- human rights watch's mission in ukraine is to uphold the laws of war. that means the behavior of all parties in conflict. russia and ukraine. it is not particularly credible to suggest we are biased in this given also we have issued several statements about ukraine. folly: alexander hinton, let me bring you back into the conversation. we have seen increasingly blurred lines and ukraine between civilians and fighters.
ordinary ukrainians have taken up arms and gathered for example to make molotov cocktails. under international law are they still considered civilians when they have been taking up arms? could this give russia legal cover? alexander: no. if you are looking at were crimes it covers combatants and noncombatants. does not really matter. i would like to weigh in on our earlier discussion. i want to point out that a classic form of denial is to divert away and focus on the small and not look at the big picture, to not look at history. russia has a long history of committing atrocity crimes. we can go to aleppo, a number of different places. the false statement that russia made that genocide was taking place in donbas has been debunked. i have helped debunk it. atrocity crimes are committed on both sides.
mass human rights violations took place in donbas, that is chronicled, but nothing was ambling genocide took place there. that is a false claim. different forms of denial including genocide denial proceed in precisely this way, casting doubt on things. in terms of bucha, the washington post looked at satellite images of bucha and there were dead bodies on the ground in the same places. we look forward to the work of human rights watch. we should certainly listen to different motions, different complaints that are brought forth by russia. but again, if we look historically we can see that russia has a history of making false claims. they said they were not going to invade ukraine. you can start with that. folly: your response? many experts argue the invasion itself is a war crime. it is a crime under the conception of aggressive warfare. andrey: historically, we should
say that the so-called ukrainian army operated with nazi germany and committed so many war crimes, it is hard to imagine. they killed little children, they killed women, they killed people all over this region. i do not think it is -- we can just close our eyes on what the so-called ukrainian army made during world war ii. as for bucha, to return to bucha , i have already mentioned some questions. so why did the governor of bucha not mention anybody's on the -- any bodies on the 31st of march? he did not mention it. the ukrainian army has mentioned those bodies.
when it enters the city of bucha a cple days after the russian withdrawal. this is the question. folly: that still needs to be answered and as hugh said, the investigation is ongoing. what happens after the investigation? what evidence is required? the icc has started an investigation into the war in ukraine, but what happens? what evidence is required to prosecute perpetrators and how solid does it need to be? hugh: so it needs to be very solid. we would point out that for a war crime it actually the responsibility of the state whose soldiers commit that crime, they have a responsibility to hold those soldiers to account. it is actually russia's responsibility. human rights watch is calling on russia to investigate these allegations of war crimes by its soldiers and to hold those to
account and prosecute them if necessary. if that does not happen, we welcome the fact that ukraine has launched an investigation in bucha and elsewhere, sent experts to the area. we encourage them to do the investigation thoroughly and carefully. bodies need to be preserved, evidence needs to be preserved, testimony, witnesses need to be gathered. we welcome the fact that the european union and the united states in the last two days are committed to sending specialist investigators including forensic experts to bucha and elsewhere because that can help with gathering information and all of that information by official bodies can contribute to the international criminal court or other bodies to finding whether these were war crimes are not -- crimes or not. if so, a case could start in the hague. folly: but alexander, neither
ukraine nor russia is party to the international criminal court. neither can really bring allegations to prosecutors. the international court of justice which rules on disputes between states have ruled upholding the rules of war. which of these bodies is more apt to take on a case like this? alexander: there is already a case for the icj. there are a number of options in terms of accountability. you can have commissions of inquiry that can be undertaken. you have the work that is done by human rights monitors as we have been hearing about. you can also have domestic courts that are established also through the principle of universal jurisdiction which has proliferated recently. you can have other countries bring suit, hold people accountable. there are a number of different options. folly: who should be prosecuted though in this case?
would it go as far up as president putin? alexander: well, we know that it is very hard to arrest and put him on trial, but people can be tried -- suits can be brought forth without the person being present. if they don't show up, they lose a degree of credibility. certainly i expect and i'm virtually certain we will see accountability processes moving forward but we also need to think about transitional justice and also the reconstruction of ukraine and in the longer term, finding a way to find peace in the region, which is absolute critical. folly: would russia cooperate with an international investigation? andrey: yes, russia is ready for that. but this investigation must be really independent. at the moment they see there is no independence in the investigation when we talk about american experts or any other experts. they are not independent.
i have already mentioned the same questions that have to be answered before we hear accusations. against russia or against ukraine. if we answer those questions, at least a couple of them -- so we will see the truth, but it appears to me that nobody is interested in the truth. we hear the accusations and we hear that president putin is responsible and that is all. it is a little, not about human rights. it is not about genocide, it is not about war crimes. it is politics, nothing more. folly: thank you, gentlemen, for an interesting discussion. alexander hinton, andrey ontikov , and hugh williamson. you can watch his program any time visiting our website. for further discussion go to our facebook page.
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