Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney on Wednesday urged the United Nations to hold Russia accountable for the alleged war crimes it has committed in Ukraine.
“Ukraine is, today, a slaughterhouse right in the heart of Europe,” Clooney said during an informal U.N. Security Council meeting in New York.
Clooney is part of an international task force that is advising Ukraine on its legal options amid Russia’s military invasion, now in its third month.
“Putin’s aggressive war is so outrageous that even after repeated warnings from the U.S. and Russia’s long criminal record, Ukrainians couldn’t believe that this could happen,” Clooney said. “And I still read news headlines not knowing quite how to process them.”
“Could it be that thousands of children are being forcibly deported to Russia?” she continued. “Could it be that teenage girls are being raped in the street in front of their family and their neighbors? Was a building that had the word ‘children’ on it really bombed? And are civilians today in Mariupol systematically being tortured and starved to death? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.”
The International Criminal Court formally opened an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine a week after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
“This is a time when we need to mobilize the law and send it into battle,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said at the meeting. “Not on the side of Ukraine against the Russian Federation, or on the side of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, but on the side of humanity.”
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said this week that a total of 8,653 alleged war crimes have been registered with the office. At least 217 children are reported to have been killed in the war.
On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres visited Bucha, Ukraine, where evidence of mass killings of civilians was found after Russian forces withdrew from the town.
According to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 2,829 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since Russia’s war began. But the agency believes the actual death toll is likely much higher.