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Chief international prosecutor warns ‘tyrants’ like China will act if Putin not punished

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A top international prosecutor warned lawmakers Tuesday that “tyrants” like China will take advantage if the international community does not respond to Russian’s aggression in a sufficiently strong and unified response.

In a congressional hearing, lawmakers heard from analysts and foreign policy advisers on how Russian should be held accountable for its deadly invasion into Ukraine. 

Civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks in Irpin, Ukraine on March 8, 2022. 
(Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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“If we do nothing, then we will surely see other aggression perpetrated by China, North Korea, among others,” David Crane, founding chief prosecutor for the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone said. “We have to show tyrants around the world that the rule of law is more powerful than the rule of the gun.”

The international prosecutor’s comments come as concerns have mounted that China could be looking to see how the international community may react if it decides to invade Taiwan.

Crane argued the U.S. needs to act as a leader in the global sphere and hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable. He pointed to various paths the international community could take, including through the establishment of war tribunals similar to those that followed WWII.

“It must be noted that the United States has led the creation of all of the international tribunals and courts in the modern era — from Nuremberg and Tokyo, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Court and various domestic efforts and mechanisms around the world as well,” Crane said. 

“The United States must continue to show leadership in the creation of justice mechanisms to hold Vladimir Putin and his henchmen accountable.”

Crane was joined by former Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Jane Stromseth, and Managing Director of Global Policy at the George W. Bush Institute, David Kramer, who also gave similar testimony.

A man walks between houses destroyed during air strikes on the central Ukranian city of Bila Tserkva on March 8, 2022.

A man walks between houses destroyed during air strikes on the central Ukranian city of Bila Tserkva on March 8, 2022.
(ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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While the advisers applauded the Biden administration’s handling of the invasion and its coordination with allies, they warned that global leaders need to be careful to learn from the lessons of WWII.

New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, who co-chaired the event with Massachusetts Democrat Rep. James McGovern, introduced a bipartisan resolution Monday night that seeks to hold Putin accountable for international crimes. 

If voted on, the non-binding resolution would call on President Biden to direct the U.S. representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to use her voice vote and influence the establishment of a “justice mechanism.”

A service takes place at Lychakiv cemetery during a joint funeral for two soldiers who died in the east of the country during recent fighting, on March 8, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine. 

A service takes place at Lychakiv cemetery during a joint funeral for two soldiers who died in the east of the country during recent fighting, on March 8, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine. 
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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The mechanism would largely reflect what Crane referred to in his calls for an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute Putin for his violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. 

“The refrain never again emerged in the wake of the Holocaust, and Ukrainians are wondering whether that pledge applies to them. Ukrainians are courageously defending their country in their freedom,” Kramer told the lawmakers. “But they need more help from the international community.”



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