Ukraine hospital bombing takes center stage as war crimes investigations unfold

The bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in the city of Mariupol has sparked international outrage as Russia continues to invade Ukraine.

Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday the bombing, which injured at least 17, should be investigated as a potential war crime. “I have no doubt that the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of aggression and atrocities,” Harris told a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, where it showed American support for NATO’s eastern flank. allies.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has already opened an investigation into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed in Ukraine after receiving referrals from nearly 40 countries. The UN Human Rights Council has also launched an independent international commission to investigate all alleged human rights violations in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

The experts said Newsweek that the hospital bombing is a “particularly gruesome” example of a potential war crime committed by Vladimir Putin’s forces.

“There is something that seems particularly egregious and particularly gruesome about attacks on facilities designed to care for the most vulnerable people in society,” said Anthony Dworkin, senior policy researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Viral footage of the bombing showed a bleeding pregnant woman being carried into a yard by rescue workers. A video released by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky showed the destroyed maternity rooms following the attack.

“Stop the killings! You have power but seem to lose your humanity,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter when he shared the footage.

Ernesto Verdeja, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame whose research focuses on large-scale political violence, agreed that the Mariupol hospital bombing is “certainly a good candidate to be considered a a war crime”.

“For something to qualify as a war crime, there must be some indication that there was an indiscriminate attack that disregards the rights of civilians,” Verdeja explained. “It puts civilians at risk without a military purpose.”

Russia has been widely condemned for bombing civilian areas, including the town of Irprin. Eight civilians were killed by Russian shelling in Irpin, according to Mayor Oleksander Markushyn. “The shell hit and before my very eyes two young children and two adults died,” Markushyn said.

The bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in the city of Mariupol has sparked international outrage as Russia continues to invade Ukraine. Above, the sports department building of Karazin Kharkiv National University is destroyed following a Russian military assault in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv on March 6.
Sergei Bobok/AFP via Getty Images

While war crimes investigations can be launched during a conflict, Dworkin and Verdeja said it could take years for investigations to be completed.

“The ICC has had a number of cases that have been processed, but it can take a long time,” Dworkin said. “You’re not going to see them until the war is over.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said over the weekend that the United States had seen “very credible reports” of deliberate attacks on civilians by Russia in Ukraine that “would constitute a war crime.”

“What we’re doing right now is documenting all of this, putting it together, reviewing it and making sure that as people and the appropriate organizations and institutions investigate whether war crimes have been or are being committed, we can support whatever they are doing,” Blinken said.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, more than 2 million people have fled the country. At least 549 civilians were killed, including 41 children, according to the United Nations.

Newsweek contacted the ICC and the United Nations Human Rights Council for comment on the hospital bombing, but did not receive a response before publication.