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Inside the Efforts to Try Russians for Ukraine War Crimes—In Argentina


Janine di Giovanni

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In a country long traumatized by torture, Putin’s victims hope to get their day in court.

Inside the Efforts to Try Russians for Ukraine War Crimes—In Argentina

The American peace advocate Norman Cousins once said, “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live.” The quote has often been linked to Ariel Dorfman’s profoundly moving play, Death and the Maiden. Therein, a middle-class Chilean woman who is a trauma survivor, having been subjected to torture and other unspeakable torments, confronts the man who had terrorized her years earlier during her country’s brutal dictatorship.

For decades, I have documented torture and war crimes, first as a journalist for Vanity Fair and now as executive director of the Reckoning Project (TRP), an organization that gathers evidence on the systematic horrors Ukrainians have endured since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. When survivors tell me how they managed to bear unimaginable physical pain, a common yet excruciating description I have heard is that they had to kill something deep inside their psyches.

How can these survivors ever hope to heal? One way—which is the main mission of the Reckoning Project—is to ensure that at least some of those who have committed war crimes are held accountable in court. If authoritarian leaders remain in power—as in Argentina in the 1970s and ’80s, and in Russia today—accountability is impossible. The question then becomes: how to create a reliable legal framework so these victims and crimes don’t go unnoticed? A method gaining traction utilizes a principle known as universal jurisdiction, which allows existing global laws to be applied to serious international crimes in territories where the crimes weren’t committed. In many ways, this is justice without borders.

Read the full story in Vanity Fair here.

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