I’m sure experts can say many deep things about war crimes. Alas, I’m no expert. And yet, that caveat in place, I think I’ve noticed two things about war crimes. It’s up to you to judge how interesting they are.
The first thing I can say about war crimes is that for years we hear next to nothing about them, even during wartime. It’s almost like wars became civilised affairs.
Then, suddenly, news reports are full of alleged war crimes.
That’s what happened since February 2022, when the Russian Federation invaded the Ukraine: the term “war crime” became almost as frequent on our TV screens as the daily appearances of the Ukrainian President.
The second thing I’ve noticed is that current news coverage of war crimes is inevitably framed within a cosmic good versus evil conflict – sorry – Western liberal democracies versus autocratic regimes narrative. In this story war crimes are the preserve of the Other: autocratic regimes (aka, the bad guys). Western liberal democracies (We), the immaculately good guys, abhor such things. Living under the rule of law, We promote an “international rules-based order”.