(RepublicanPress.org) – In June 2022, Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Ukraine and met with Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to reaffirm America’s commitment to identifying, apprehending, and prosecuting the perpetrators of war crimes and other human rights violations. He also announced the creation of the War Crimes Accountability Team to strengthen and centralize the Justice Department’s efforts in the region.
Garland explained that the newly formed team would also spearhead investigations into atrocities committed in Ukraine that would fall under the jurisdiction of the American court system. For instance, the wounding and killing of US citizens in Ukraine could be prosecuted under the War Crimes Act of 1996, a federal law criminalizing Geneva Conventions violations.
A recent report indicated that Justice Department officials filed the first indictment ever handed down under 18 US Code § 2441, the federal law codifying the War Crimes Act.
Justice Department Charges Russian Soldiers With War Crimes
On December 6, the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs issued a press release announcing the indictment of four Russia-affiliated military personnel for their role in the unlawful detention, interrogation, beating, and torturing of a US national “in the context of the armed conflict” transpiring between Ukraine and Russia. The defendants also stand accused of threatening to kill their captive and staging that unnamed individual’s “mock execution.”
Two of the defendants, Dmitry Budnik and Suren Seiranovich Mkrtchyan, were commanding officers with the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and/or the Russian Armed Forces. The other two were lower ranking members of the DPR and/or the Russian Armed Forces military units.
The victim resided in the Ukrainian village of Mylove beginning in 2021 and as a “protected person” as defined under the Geneva Convention.
The nine-page indictment details four criminal counts against all four defendants. They include conspiracy to commit war crimes, war crime-unlawful confinement of a protected person, war crime-torture, and war crime-inhumane treatment.
Prosecutors allege that Mkrtchyan and the military personnel under his command abducted the victim from his home in April 2022 in the Kherson Oblast region and “unlawfully” held him for several days. During his abduction, Mkrtchyan and others stripped the victim, hurled him to the ground face first, restrained his hands behind his back, aimed a gun at his head, and physically assaulted him.
The defendants and others allegedly transported the victim to another location and tortured him for days, eventually staging his fake execution to inflict psychological pain and suffering. They reportedly tortured him during two separate interrogation sessions, where they also threatened to kill him.
Federal prosecutors filed the grand jury’s true bill of indictment in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. They face a maximum of life imprisonment if convicted.
It remains unclear if Ukrainian officials are detaining the defendants. CBS News confirmed that they aren’t currently in US custody.
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