Reinfeldt Invites Suspected War Criminal to Sweden
Taking into account the presumptive individual responsibility of Vladimir Putin concerning thousands of war crimes in Chechnya, it is remarkable that Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has invited him to Sweden.
During the war in Chechnya several grave abuses have been committed to persons, protected by the Geneva conventions, including civilian chechens and prisoners of war. Many of these abuses are very well documented by human rights organisations.
It is no doubt that several war crimes have been committed in Chechnya. And although many of the perpetrators are known, they have still not been put to trial. A striling example is General Aleksandr Baranov who has ordered to execution of imprisoned Chechen separatists in front of the Russian and international TV cameras on February 2000; and the same time period, another Russian genral Vladimir Shamanov ordered to the bombings of Katyr Yurt and at least 167 Chechen civilians were killed there.
Those and several more cases are relevant also when considering Putin’s responsibility, as such responsibility not lies only on the physical perpetrators.
The international law referres to the principal of command responsibility, that is if the superior “knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such acts or had done so and the superior failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators.” It must be note that Putin was president and commander in chief with effective control over the troops in Chechnya in the period of january 2000 to May 2008.
According to the report “International tribunal for Chechnya” persons subordinated to Putin committed at least 1527 murders, 1468 enforced disappearances, 10336 torture cases – whereof 35 led to death, 1029 cases of causing serious injury to body or health, 20223 cases of unlawful detention within the frames of the Russian-Chechen war, all the victims being persons protected by international law.
Putin definitely knew or should have known, taking into account all reports and alarms that were addressed to him by human rights defenders and other institutions. And about the fact that almost no perpetrator has been punished, instead they in several cases have been given higher ranks in the military.
From a juridical point of view it is therefore not controversial to state that Putin’s responsibility for war crimes should be tried before a court. As the crimes are so serious, no immunity is relevant, although it is probably impossible to start a legal process while Putin is still holding a high state position.
But even if it is impossible to arrest Putin while he visits Stockholm, it does not mean that it is appropriate to invite him to Sweden, especially not when the inviting side is a government that often prouds itself of struggling for the principles of international law.
Chairman of The Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (Östgruppen för demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter)
Russian-Chechen Friendship Society
*Translated from Svenska Dagbladet for Waynakh Online