and war crimes
in a place called Zaporizhzhia, the Russians targeted a nuclear plant, which is
said to be Europe's
largest. Earmarking for destruction the Zaporizhzhia plant is a grave breach of
the Geneva Conventions to
which Russia and
Ukraine are signatories. Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions have been
categorized as war crimes.
to Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions, "works or
installations containing dangerous forces, namely dams, dikes and nuclear
electrical generating stations, shall not be made the object of attack, even
when these objects are military objectives, if such attack may cause the
release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian
war crime may be differentiated from the crime of aggression in that the latter
may give rise to the former. In the crime of aggression, the chief perpetrator
and his enablers are held accountable. The enablers are usually the generals
planning and executing the attack on the sovereignty of another State. War
crimes are more specific since the crime punishes the perpetrator of the act
itself either individually or collectively. War crimes are more difficult to
prove since evidence are usually lost during the war itself. In the crime of
aggression, there is usually no dearth of evidence to prove aggression was
directing attacks on the civilian population or against individual civilians
not taking direct part in hostilities is considered a war crime. Intentionally
directing attacks against civilian objects — that is, objects which are not
military objectives — is also a war crime.
an attack is launched with the intention and knowledge that it will cause
incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or widespread and long-term
damage to civilian objects or the destruction of the natural environment,
clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military
advantage anticipated, that attack is a war crime.
is a war crime to attack or bombard, by whatever means, undefended towns,
villages, dwellings or buildings which are not military objectives. Attacking
with knowledge and intention buildings dedicated to religion, education, art,
science, to charitable purposes and historic monuments is a war crime. Bombing
hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided these
are not military objectives, is a war crime. The indiscriminate bombing of the
maternity and children's hospital in the city of Mariupol in Ukraine is categorized
as a war crime. There were also reports that Russian soldiers violated
Ukrainian women in occupied territories. If true, soldiers who committed such
acts can later be tried as war criminals since any form of sexual violence
committed during war is considered a war crime.
at the pictures and reading reports coming out of Ukraine, it is obvious that
the country is suffering extensive collateral or incidental damage. Attacks
that cause collateral damage are not per se prohibited, but the attack should
not be indiscriminate as what is happening in Ukraine where residential
neighborhoods and houses are subjected to bombardment. Should the collateral
damage suffered be disproportionate to the military advantage obtained as a
result of the attack, then it is prohibited. The military commanders who gave
the orders and the soldiers who complied with the illegal orders may be held
liable as war criminals.
of civilian property is likewise prohibited. Additional Protocol I to the
Geneva Conventions states that "civilian objects shall not be the object
of attack or reprisals and objects or institutions ordinarily of civilian use
are presumed to be civilian unless determined to be otherwise."
The war in Ukraine has demonstrated to us how advances in information technology have changed the way wars are fought. The internet and digital cameras facilitate live, on-the-spot coverage and instant transmission by various news agencies covering the war. An indiscriminate attack can be seen by the entire world within minutes after it is committed. The death of a child can be broadcast as she breathes her last. While war crimes are committed before our very eyes, President Putin's invasion of Ukraine has made all of us aware of the importance of international law.
in 1868, czarist Russia banned the use of newly developed exploding or
incendiary bullets weighing less than 400 grams because of its destructive
power. A Declaration was signed by Russia and other States to enforce the ban.
The Declaration affirmed: "That the progress of civilization should have
the effect of alleviating as much as possible the calamities of war." It
established the understanding that "whenever a precise proposition shall
be drawn up in view of future improvements which science may effect in the
armament of troops...the necessities of war" shall be reconciled
"with the laws of humanity."
The Declaration was signed in St. Petersburg, now Leningrad, in Russia. The birthplace of Vladimir Putin.
Read: War in Ukraine 'morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical'
(The Manila Times, March 19, 2022)