Strona główna/[ENG] FOREWORD. The Question

[ENG] FOREWORD. The Question

Aleksandra Zińczuk

Crimes first need to be spoken about, before someone can be held accountable for them. It is uncertain whether there were any occasional lunches held and letters of congratulations sent out in The Hague at the beginning of July to mark the 20th anniversary of the International Criminal Court. For most people in the world, and especially the citizens of Ukraine, it is not an occasion worth celebrating. In fact, no international tribunal has the power to try Russian war criminals. A separate structure should be created, as was the case after the war in Yugoslavia. Few politicians strive to do so – firstly because, from a legal point of view, in order to begin a trial, the war must end – which unfortunately will take much time. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly of all – not only did Russia not sign the so-called Rome Statute, but most states (the USA, China, Israel) did not ratify the document of 17 July 1998. In practice this means that the International Criminal Court cannot bring the citizens of these countries to justice.

The latest incident with the Amnesty International report only confirms a compromised institutional model, which is governed by the unwritten principle of „we’ll examine if you pay”. The investigation of Russian crimes was „unpaid”, as I learned painfully in 2014, during my search for Ukrainian soldiers in Russian infiltration camps – a fact that the world’s audience is slowly opening their eyes to. So far, no one in this organization has formally sought to obtain at least a list of missing, tortured prisoners held in camps after the war in Chechnya.

Even before Bucha, the Ukrainian media shared the first pieces of information, (albeit subdued and quickly disappearing in the depths of the internet) about cases of rapes committed by Russian criminals. Shortly after the massacre in Bucha and Irpen, the human rights spokeswoman in Ukraine, Ludmila Denisova, publicized the increasing number of documented acts of violence against civilians. Helpless women, children, and even men were victims of rape. A representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized this information on official government portals and called on Ukraine to withdraw from the accusations. Maria Zacharova demanded an apology for spreading alleged „lies” directed against brave and immaculate Russian soldiers. And then on May 31, the Ukrainian Supreme Council ruled a vote of no confidence toward its spokeswoman. Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, did not apologize directly, but he fired Denisova, which, incidentally, is unacceptable during the war. So did he apologize for the alleged rapes committed by Russian soldiers or did he start a political campaign for next year’s elections? 

Last year, the film Quo vadis, Aida of the Bosnian director did not win an Oscar, probably because other films were deemed more sophisticated. Politically, this is quite a convenient situation, because with more publicity, too many citizens of the world would be taken aback by the increasingly pronounced inefficiency of the UN, even its complicity in the massacre in Srebrenica, among others. Before I repeatedly ask questions about the failure of the rest of the world, it is enough that for several months I have been focusing on asking questions to Ukrainian women, and each time I ask myself: quo vadis, Zelenski?

Lublin, 13.08.2022

Aleksandra Zińczuk
Translated from Polish by Satya Nowak

Kultura Enter 2022/02
nr 103–104 „Rosyjskie zbrodnie”

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash