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The top human rights official at the United Nations made a sweeping declaration late yesterday--the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 could potentially be a war crime.

"This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime," Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said of the downing of MH17.

"Every effort will be made to ensure that anyone committing serious violations of international law including war crimes will be brought to justice, no matter who they are," Ms Pillay said.

All indications are that the plane was brought down by a Russian-made missile fired by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.  While Pillay didn't ascribe blame, the circumstantial evidence points strongly at the rebels.  After all, if they're innocent, why were they blocking access to the crash site?

If I'm a rebel and I'm hearing this, I'm afraid.  Very afraid.  It was already beyond dispute that this was a criminal act, but if the UN's top human rights watchdog already considers this a war crime, the noose around the rebels just became a lot tighter.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The UN cannot act without Russia (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jennyp, maybeeso in michigan

    Russia has veto power  ,so  any action by the UN will not go too far,the US is not  a signature of the  International court of justice anyway,how many  american would probaby be under indictment for the war in Iraq

  •  No, just no. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, Catte Nappe, limpidglass, jennyp

    First, if it's a mistake, then it's not a war crime, no matter what legal argument you make. Good luck to anyone trying to prove it's not a mistake.

    Second, do we really want to make a war crime case over this before we know the facts. It's not like it was a genocide that resulted in millions of deaths.

    If anything, it would just result in forcing Russia out of those pacts and treaties, rendering them even less effective than they already are. If you really want to nail someone for this, give Russia an excuse to blame some idiot commander without blaming Russia as a country or Putin in particular. Going off half-cocked does no one any good.

    People need to choose their battles carefully. It's not like International Law is law in the sense we like to think. Until we have an actual legitimate and effective world government, we can't have anything approaching International Law. The UN is neither.

    What we have is International Relations —Politics. Despite attempts at Constructivism, what we have is Realism, that is to say sovereign nations who merely go along to get along until they change their mind on a whim.

    -We need Healthcare Reform... but i'm selfish, I Need Healthcare reform-

    by JPax on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 09:26:21 AM PDT

    •  I don't know enough about war crimes statutes (0+ / 0-)

      to know how necessary it is to prove intent to demonstrate that a war crime was indeed committed, but at least otherwise your arguments are compelling.  

      I also wonder just how much would be proved by hauling up some lower-level guy in the field for a war crime in this case.  There's no way this could be traced back to Putin even if he were directly responsible.  Well, maybe with Colin Powell-style evidence . . .

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 09:50:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But if a rebel commander got haled (0+ / 0-)

        before The Hague, it would be pretty significant.

        "Leave us alone!" -Mike Capuano

        by Christian Dem in NC on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 10:15:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It would be, but it would also be (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bananapouch1, viral, Justanothernyer

          embarrassing if he were acquitted, assuming intent to down a civilian aircraft were a factor and the prosecution couldn't demonstrate it.

          And really, it isn't as if any previous case in which a civilian aircraft had been downed by a hostile country has ever been prosecuted as a war crime or crime against humanity.

          Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

          by corvo on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 10:22:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I think what Pillay is saying (0+ / 0-)

      is that since they aren't even trying to protect civilians, this could potentially be a war crime.

      "Leave us alone!" -Mike Capuano

      by Christian Dem in NC on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 10:13:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  rebels didn't expect civilian planes in a war zone (0+ / 0-)

        Or so I've read, which could be wrong. I'm not sure if they made a formal request to civilian routes to keep clear or if they just expected them to be aware if a war zone.

        Of course, the rebels also claim that there were Ukrainian SU-25s behind the plane. Maybe they think they shot the airliner down. But even if they didn't shoot the plane down, if the fighters where there, it might mean the Ukrainians were using the airliner as a human shield. (I suspect it's made up and no one saw fighters near the plane.)

        -We need Healthcare Reform... but i'm selfish, I Need Healthcare reform-

        by JPax on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 03:11:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Russia is still to blame. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It might not be a war crime (you are right, intent could matter). But fact is, Putin has armed bandits in eastern Ukraine with heavy weaponry, and they have shot down a civilian plane, killing 295 innocent people. Russia is busy blaming this on Ukraine, of course.

  •  It should be noted that, in April, (0+ / 0-)

    the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Ukraine in order to determine whether the criteria for formally opening an investigation exists.  This could, potentially, be expanded to include an investigation of the shooting down of MH17.

    Anyone arguing that there's no difference between the parties is a fucking moron who can simply go to hell. -- kos

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 09:30:17 AM PDT

  •  They should have done something reasonable like (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IndieGuy, corvo, hubcap

    lie about a reason to stage a military invasion and overthrow a government.  Apparently that's not a war crime.

  •  Leave it to the UN to go out on a limb.... (0+ / 0-)

    Next they are going to issue a "strongly worded statement".....

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 09:45:53 AM PDT

  •  Sigh. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Putin is very good at dancing the thin line. More's the pity for the rest of us. especially the Ukrainians.

    "Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base is the marks." -- Chris Hayes

    by raptavio on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 09:47:55 AM PDT

  •  It's all but impossible to prove intent (0+ / 0-)

    Even if they managed to find the private who pushed the button or the lieutenant who told him to (assuming the Russians have left either of them alive to talk), proving that they knew it was a civilian airliner and not a Ukrainian transport would be very difficult.

    Election Day is Nov 4th, 2014 It's time for the Undo button on the 2010 Election.

    by bear83 on Mon Jul 28, 2014 at 11:22:01 AM PDT

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