All the [War] Crimes

July 28, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

So. Last Friday Russia and Ukraine signed a deal in Istanbul, Turkey. The deal was largely brokered by the UN and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was elated at its success, saying it “was the most important thing [he] had done as Secretary-General.”

This deal released the strangle-hold Russia has had on Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, from which millions of tons of grain are shipped to countries mainly in Africa and the Middle East. It was an agreement that allowed Ukraine to commence its export of grain to the many countries who depend absolutely on those shipments.

The deal took two months to reach and was set to last for 120 days.

The following day, Saturday, Russia bombed the Ukrainian port of Odessa.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then condemned Saturday’s rocket attacks on the Ukrainian port of Odessa but admitted there “was little the UN could do about it.”

The invasion of Ukraine is a litany of war crimes: Russia bombing civilian sites, including hospitals, shopping centres, apartment buildings and strictly residential areas; on the part of Russian soldiers with their boots on Ukrainian territory have come horror stories of rape, torture and cold-blooded murder of men and women alike, leaving the streets littered with bodies and children devastated. How often have we heard these kinds of stories over the decades, the centuries? 

Currently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has begun a tour of African countries, beginning in Egypt, as he seeks to rally support amid anger over the Ukraine war, according to the BBC. He declared in an interview with the BBC that only this invasion of Ukraine could stop the “criminal intent to bring Ukraine into NATO” and, lacing his rhetoric with the expression “false news,” blamed the longevity of the war on the Western determination and support of Ukraine to defend itself from Russian aggression. 

The stance of Moscow is that this invasion of a separate sovereign country should have been left to follow its inevitable course without resistance, to eliminate the [non-existent] Nazi element and return Ukraine into the old Soviet fold.

Putin has made an exceptional visit to Iran, welcomed by President Ebrahim Raisi with a view to creating a bond between these two countries that have both been subjected to Western sanctions for many years. Iran has offered weaponized drones to Russia (in spite of Iran’s alleged neutrality in the matter of the invasion) to aid its defeat of Ukraine.

So. How can we separate the idea of [war] crimes apart from military battle fields? We could pretend that the UN had a magic wand that assists it in backing its fine ideals of what are human rights and the rights of children in particular. Yet it does not have such a tool and in whose hands could we possibly trust it?

There is the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among such lofty ideals that sound more like wishful thinking, states and agrees that, in Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

And in Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

As for the Children’s rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, basic rights are:

  • non-discrimination 
  • devotion to the best interests of the child
  • the right to life, survival and development
  • respect for the views of the child

Of 190 countries, by the bye, only three declined to ratify this convention, Somalia, South Sudan, a country newly formed but even now organizing itself to join in ratification of the Convention and the United States. There, the legal opinion is that the binding nature of this international Convention could create barriers or come into conflict with US federal law, depending on circumstance and/or interpretation of both or either.

War, yes, contravenes the basic rights set out by the United Nations for liberty and freedom from harm but so does the horrendous harm done by corporations, the fossil fuel industry and industries like deforestation, industrial farming, including meat and dairy production, modification of crops, data mining, mineral and lithium mining, fish harvesting and management – what have I missed?! Are they committing crimes against humanity? Basically, war crimes in the extend of the wholesale, permanent damage committed? The cause of an increase in physical and mental ill-health, the incursion and renewal of viruses?

Here is what I wish for: that every soldier, everywhere and of every rank think, if only of the children and drop their weapons, lock tight and forever the deadly weapons and bombs and walk away, telling their politicians “No.”

That every worker for every fossil fuel company and all those industries mentioned – that the people who make those businesses work, quit and tell their CEO’S (eg. James D. Taiclet Jr. CEO of Lockheed Martin, arms manufacturers), CEO Braley Corson, Imperial Oil, CEO Thomas T. Edman TTM Technologies Inc. Printed Circuit Boards, mining in the Canadian Shield; Vice President Catherine Gridley of Aerospace and Defence technology) “No.”

That there is such an insistence from every one of us who have so much to lose to say “No.”

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