The chairman and the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday introduced legislation to probe war crimes that Russia has committed in Ukraine.
The bill would direct President Biden to report to Congress on government efforts “to collect, analyze, and preserve evidence and information related to war crimes and any other atrocities committed during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat and the committee’s chairman, said the bipartisan bill sends an unequivocal “message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s regime that we will work tirelessly to hold perpetrators of war crimes and other atrocities to justice.”
“Based on the reports coming out of Ukraine, it is clear that Putin and the armed forces of the Russian Federation are committing war crimes,” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the committee’s ranking Republican. “It is vital that the U.S. and the free world build a case against Russia for their atrocities and work to deter them from committing future war crimes. We owe the brave Ukrainian people this commitment.”
The legislation adds to calls in Washington to label Mr. Putin a war criminal and pressure the international community to hold him accountable.
On Wednesday, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called for Russia‘s removal from the U.N. Human Rights Council in response to war crimes committed in Ukraine. It cited “the multitude of crimes committed by the Russian Federation, and by Vladimir Putin himself,” which the lawmakers say “demonstrates that the Russian government has no intention of upholding international human rights.”
The Biden administration last week officially declared that Russia‘s invading forces in Ukraine are guilty of war crimes, citing Russia‘s targeting of civilian sites such as apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals, many of which had been clearly labeled as non-military locations.
It also cited U.N. figures estimating that at least 2,500 civilians have been killed or wounded in the fighting and the actual number is “likely higher.”
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that U.S. officials are “documenting and evaluating” evidence of potential war crimes by Russia and Mr. Putin in Ukraine to assist international investigations and “hold those responsible accountable.”
Mr. Blinken said the administration was working with private groups to build a possible case of war crimes against the Kremlin.
Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence called on the nation’s intelligence agencies to ramp up their work to document possible Russian military war crimes.
Members of the committee said the intelligence community is uniquely situated to document and analyze evidence of war crimes and has a long history of documenting human rights violations.