“It’s despicable, yet another massacre.” The bombing of the Kramatorsk station, in which at least 50 people were killed, Friday, April 8, eastern Ukraine, is one of the components ‘crime against humanity’A few hours later, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France 5 said. “We need experts quickly, because we have to see quickly. We need documentation urgently so that we can then provide evidence of crimes against humanity”he added.
>> The war in Ukraine: the latest information on our live site
Is the head of French diplomacy right to use this qualification? What is the definition of crime against humanity? When is it applied? How are these crimes investigated? Franceinfo asked these questions at Clemens Pickart, A lawyer representing the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the French Alliance at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Franceinfo: What is a crime against humanity?
Clemence Pickartt: Crimes against humanity are crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. For example, rape or torture that is carried out as part of an attack. To talk about crimes against humanity, you need a chain of criminal acts. Crimes against humanity are defined as a type of plan or policy to attack a civilian population.
Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity are not necessarily committed in wartime. War crimes and crimes against humanity do not follow the same logic, but they can coexist. This is why an investigation was opened with the two polices, “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, on March 2 by Prosecutor for International Criminal Court for Ukraine.
Is Jean-Yves Le Drian right in saying that the bombing of the Kramatorsk station constituted a crime against humanity?
Saying it is one thing, defining it is another. It is important to remember these legal concepts, which are still important criteria. This did not happen in all conflicts. However, when Jean-Yves Le Drian said it, there are no legal consequences. It is not the word of the politician that will win. The courts of justice are empowered to rule on this requirement. They have the ability to assess whether a crime against humanity has been committed.
The possibility of reaching the stage of a crime against humanity is a hypothesis that was taken into account from the outset, as the International Criminal Court investigation on this charge was opened seven days after the outbreak of the war. Today, is that true? It’s still too early to tell. It’s all the work that gets done: it’s going to be decisive. Moreover, at this time, crimes are still being committed. It is impossible for justice to act in real time.
It is not yet known whether the bombing of the Kramatorsk station will be included among the incidents listed as “crimes against humanity”.Clemence Pickart, attorney
Are other violations in Ukraine likely to be crimes against humanity?
Again, it’s too early to say. Only investigations will confirm this. Remember that an ICC investigation is opened on a situation, not on specific facts. That is, the ICC selects an indictment and chooses the events it supports: an attack on a village and acts of torture, for example. This is the difference between international and national justice. In Ukraine, for example, the Prosecutor General opened about 4,000 investigations, that is, as many investigations as there were a number of accidents. It will be interesting to see how the two fit together.
Are procedures and evidence gathering for crimes against humanity organized as war crimes?
Yes, the logic is similar. And there is always the issue of preserving evidence. What’s different is the items: you shouldn’t collect the same items. Is the civilian population being targeted as part of a deliberate policy? This is what we will try to show.
Because with crime against humanity we go to another scale. It is a premeditated, targeted crime, either repeated over time or committed in a single sequence. The extent of the acts committed characterizes it. For example, an investigation into “crimes against humanity” was opened before the International Criminal Court at a demonstration that was suppressed by the ruling military junta on September 28, 2009 in Conakry (Guinea). These events occurred in one day.