What is a war crime, and could Putin be prosecuted over Ukraine?

Source: BBC

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described an attack on a maternity and children’s hospital as a “war crime”.

It may not seem like it, but “even war has rules”, as the International Committee of the Red Cross puts it.

These are contained in treaties called the Geneva Conventions and a string of other international laws and agreements.

What is a war crime?

Civilians cannot be deliberately attacked – nor can the infrastructure that is vital to their survival.

Some weapons are banned because of the indiscriminate or appalling suffering they cause – such as anti-personnel landmines and chemical or biological weapons.

The sick and wounded must be cared for – including injured soldiers, who have rights as prisoners of war.

Other laws prohibit torture and genocide – the deliberate attempt to destroy a specific group of people.

Serious offences during war such as murder, rape or mass persecution of a group, are known as “crimes against humanity”.

What allegations of war crimes have there been in Ukraine?

Ukraine said the Russian air strike on maternity and children’s wards in Mariupol was a war crime. Three people including a child were killed and 17 staff and patients were injured.

There have also been reports that Russian troops have targeted fleeing Ukrainian civilians.

There’s mounting evidence that cluster bombs – munitions that separate into lots of bomblets – have hit civilian areas of Kharkiv.

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