American Opinion: The US must pass a law to prosecute crimes against humanity

From the editorial: Harris and Blinken are right about crimes against humanity. Now make that illegal under American law.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks, during the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany February 18, 2023.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks, during the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany February 18, 2023.
REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

At the annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris was direct , saying, “In the case of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we have examined the evidence. We know the legal standards, and there is no doubt: These are crimes against humanity.” She spoke of “gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation.”

American Opinion
American Opinion
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The vice president stressed, “And I say to all those who have perpetrated these crimes and to their superiors who are complicit in these crimes: You will be held to account,” adding, “Let us all agree, on behalf of all the victims, both known and unknown, justice must be served. Such is our moral interest.”

And Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued the formal finding : “Based on a careful analysis of the law and available facts, I have determined that members of Russia ’s forces and other Russian officials have committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine,” concluding that “the United States will pursue justice for the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

But that justice will not occur in the U.S., for if a Russian who committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine ended up here, nothing would happen to him. That is because Congress has refused to make such an atrocity an offense, unlike just about every country in the world, including all our major allies.

It was only last month that the U.S. closed a loophole in the 1996 War Crimes Act. Beforehand, only if the victim or perpetrator of a war crime was a U.S. person could there be a prosecution. By voice votes in both chambers, Congress, led by Rep. Jerry Nadler, got rid of the U.S. person limitation and President Joe Biden signed the new Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act last month.


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So a Russian who commits war crimes in Ukraine can now be prosecuted by the Department of Justice. But another Russian who committed what could be far worse crimes against humanity remains untouchable. Harris and Blinken are right about crimes against humanity. Now make that illegal under American law.

This American Opinion editorial is the view of the New York Daily News Editorial Board. Send feedback to:

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