US President Joe Biden recently described Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide.
Experts say this is not true.
They noted that the evidence base is not good enough to use such a definition.
Russia’s strongest accusation of war so far
Biden previously avoided using the term genocide in connection with the war in Ukraine, but has now taken a hard line against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
– It’s called genocide because it turns out that Putin wants to erase the idea of you being Ukrainian. Evidence for this, Biden says, is growing.
Lieutenant-Colonel Pale Yedistibo, head of the Land Force Division at the War School, believes it is critical that the US president gets out hard.
It is the strongest Russian accusation of the war in Ukraine to date. The genocide is linked to the Holocaust and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and this level has sharpened the United States’ view of the war.
Now the Lieutenant Colonel of the United States is more clearly involved in the war.
It will also reinforce the argument that the United States should help and support Ukraine more than it has done so far.
He says it will now be relevant to the United States and will send more weapons and artillery to Ukraine.
Ydstebø believes Biden is referring to evidence directly related to attacks affecting civilians, and thus could be defined as genocide.
– The clear evidence is the killing of civilians that was found in Batsha and several other places. In addition, this is how the Russians carry out intense artillery bombardment of cities, constantly striking civilian targets.
Gro Nestoen, assistant director of the Norwegian Foundation for Human Rights, believes, however, that there are higher requirements for what could be defined as genocide.
The definition of genocide is that one must have the intent to exterminate a people. In practical terms, that means killing members of the group because of their national, ethnic, racial, or religious affiliation, she says, adding:
I think basically that Russia’s actions were not defined as genocide. Putin is not necessarily aiming to eliminate an entire ethnic group.
The most dangerous person who can be convicted
Nestwin explains that Russian leaders must express their desire to exterminate an entire ethnic group before genocide can be proven.
So she believes Biden may have used the term too lightly.
There is a very high threshold for something that could be referred to as genocide. It’s the most dangerous person to be convicted of, and the most serious criminal act of all, she says and points out:
– I think the term genocide can be used here without looking at the definition.
It may lose legitimacy
The consequences of such a statement could be regrettable, Nestwin believes, and argues that Western leaders should be careful about the definitions they use in the event of war.
Biden here speaks very big words about something you don’t necessarily know. It may be unfortunate to overdo it in such a case, Nestwin concludes, as one can lose legitimacy.
Attorney Han Sophie Gref, a lawyer on the Juling Court of Appeal and a former judge on the European Court of Human Rights, agrees that there is currently no basis for being able to call it genocide.
– I probably won’t use the term genocide at the moment, but some strange things are written and said in Russia, so these are ominous signs.
She notes that neither Putin nor his top leaders have said directly that they want to exterminate an entire ethnic group, but that it is important that other countries suppress the slightest signal.
So she believes that, unlike Nestwin, the statement only sends a clear message that there is something she is not accepting.
– We should be glad that Western leaders are saying clearly. Better to call it something with a little more coverage, than to roll their cheeks.
I will not speak until you condemn Russia
Foreign Minister Anniken Heitfeldt wrote in a commentary on TV 2 that she strongly condemns the Russian military attack on Ukraine.
The attack is a serious violation of international law with grave consequences for the people of Ukraine.
She points out that genocide is a legal concept with clearly defined content and that Norway does not yet have sufficient evidence to be able to prove it.
– In addition to the fact that some transgression must have been committed against a group, it must have been committed with the intent to destroy the group in whole or in part as such. This presupposes an assessment of the evidence that is most appropriate for the courts to present, she writes, continuing:
So Norway does not, in general, comment on whether violations against a particular group can be considered genocide, unless the court has decided so first.
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