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Prof Andrew Clapham: International justice too slow on Ukraine war crimes

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In an interview with Stéphane Bussard, Professor Andrew Clapham discusses the slow pace at which crimes committed in Ukraine are being prosecuted.


In 2021, you published a book entitled War, a title that unintentionally echoes Russia under Vladimir Putin, who refuses to call the war in Ukraine by its name and calls it a “special operation”. Is the term that controversial?

Andrew Clapham: When I chose this title, the war in Ukraine and Gaza had not yet begun. My motivation to write about this topic was straightforward. When political leaders want to justify violence in armed conflicts, they use the term “war”. In an interview, when asked about a Nato attack that killed many civilians, a British minister simply responded: “It’s war”. I was struck by this way of justifying everything and shutting down the debate on clear human rights violations. At the same time, I wanted to explore the specific rights and obligations that apply in a war compared to an armed conflict. Some crimes, such as treason, are only committed in times of war.

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