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US President Biden calls for a war crimes trial against Putin

US President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal on Monday and said he would call for a war crimes trial, after Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing dozens of civilians in the town of Bucha. The US will also ask the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, the US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday. The European Union announced that further sanctions against Russia were on the way.

“Russia’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a farce,” said Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield during her visit to Bucharest on Monday, which was devoted to Romania’s efforts to help the Ukrainian refugees. The Ambassador called on the UN General Assembly to remove Russia from the council for persistently committing gross and systematic violations of human rights, which would require a two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member assembly in New York. The assembly previously did the same with Libya in March 2011, after forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi used violence against protesters.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the UN General Assembly has adopted two resolutions denouncing Russia with at least 140 yes votes. “My message to those 140 countries who have courageously stood together is: the images out of Bucha and devastation across Ukraine require us to now match our words with action,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters.

In close coordination with Ukraine and other Member States and partners at the UN, the United States is going to seek Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council.

— Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@USAmbUN) April 4, 2022

Russia is in its second year of a three-year term on the 47-member Geneva-based council. Moscow’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Human Rights Council’s decisions do not have legally binding consequences, but they do send important political messages. The body can also authorise investigations.

Last month, the council set up an investigation into alleged rights violations in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, and those include possible war crimes. Thirty-two members voted in favour of the resolution, brought by Ukraine. Russia and Eritrea voted against while 13, including China, abstained.

Bucha’s deputy mayor said around 50 bodies were found after Kremlin forces withdrew were the victims of extrajudicial killings carried out by Russian troops. Reuters’ reporters in Bucha saw one man sprawled by the roadside, his hands tied behind his back and a bullet wound to his head. A mass grave at a church remained open, with hands and feet poking through red clay heaped on top.

While Moscow categorically denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians in the town, Ukrainian authorities said they were investigating possible war crimes. The United States announced that their experts were also gathering evidence to support the accusation.

A spokesman for EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell, Peter Stano, accused Russia of “murdering civilians, destroying civilian infrastructure, violating international humanitarian law and committing war crimes.” He said the 27-member bloc would keep on supporting Ukraine and added a new round of sanctions was in the making. “We will advance, as a matter of urgency, the work on further sanctions against the Kremlin’s murderous war machinery,” Stano told a regular news briefing.

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