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Wanted: Vladimir Putin for Crimes Against Children

The recent ICC arrest warrant for Putin has sparked global attention, but what about the children abducted during conflict?
Children's shoes and people with Ukrainian flags Play Podcast

About the Episode

The ICC has dubbed Vladimir Putin personally responsible for the abductions of children from Ukraine. While the world focuses on Putin’s prospects, Deep Dish dives into the underlying issue: accountability, justice, and protection of the most vulnerable victims of war. Experts Nathaniel Raymond and Kathryn Sikkink unpack the tragic reality of child abductions during times of conflict, how the indictments might affect these Ukrainian children, and whether this could truly deter child abductions in future war crimes. 

[Intro: Brian Hanson This is deep dish and global affairs going beyond the headlines on critical global issues. I'm your host, Brian Hanson with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, accusing him of personal responsibility for the abduction of children from Ukraine. Well, so much attention has been focused on Putin's indictment and on whether he will ever serve time for these crimes. We actually want to focus on the underlying crime, abducting and removing children in conflict. The prospect of having one's child forcibly taken away, perhaps never to be seen again, is frankly, one of the most horrifying fears a person can face. And I know for me, just thinking about this possibility right now invokes a deep sense of anguish and an actual pit in my stomach. Today, we're going to unpack the tragic reality of child abduction during times of conflict and war. How these recent indictments might affect the situation for the Ukrainian children, given that these crimes are still happening and whether these indictments could deter child abductions and future war crimes. To help us explore these issues of accountability, justice and protection of the most vulnerable victims of war. We're joined today by two experts. I have with me Nathaniel Raymond, who is the executive director of the Humanitarian Research Lab at Yale University, who specializes in the investigation of war crimes, including mass killings and torture. And his team recently released a report detailing Russia's abduction of Ukrainian children. And it's titled Russia's Systematic Program for the Reeducation and Adoption of Ukrainian Children. This report played a key role in the International Criminal Court indictment of Putin. And we'll link to it in our show notes. We also have with us Kathryn Sikkink, who teaches at Harvard's Kennedy School. And Kathryn is a leading expert on human rights and has written several important books on these topics, including "Evidence for Hope, Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century", and the "Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics". These books are also linked in our show notes. Welcome to Deep Dish, Kathryn, and also to you, Nathaniel. It's good to have you both here.]

Nathaniel Raymond [00:02:32] Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

Brian Hanson [00:02:35] So, Nathaniel, let me start with you, because you've led this team that has this incredible report on the Russian effort to gather children and then deport them. And one of the things that was so striking about that report is how systematic and institutionalized this entire effort is. Could you briefly describe what is happening and how this system works?

Nathaniel Raymond [00:03:00] The best place to start is that there's four groups of kids that are involved in this network, and it truly is a network of camps and facilities. The first group, which has received a large amount of attention, are the kids from hard Work and the Nets, who are in reeducation camps primarily in Crimea, but also in Siberia and in the Far East as far as Magadan, near Alaska. The second group is referred to by the Russians as the evacuees, and those are children that had been in Ukrainian state institutions, primarily orphanages, including, in one case, a home for disabled children in Kharkiv [00:03:43]was operated [0.2s] Harrison and Mariupol. Those children were transferred relatively early on in the war into Russia and primarily are the main group that is being adopted and foster. The third group are children who were collected as part of Russian combat operations. There's recent examples of this in the Defense of the Fatherland Day rally that happened a few weeks ago in Moscow, where children from Mariupol, including [00:04:15]one 12 [0.1s] year old girl named Anya, were forced to hug on camera soldiers who had attacked Mariupol. They represent an example of their third group. The fourth and final group are kids who had been deported to Russia or had gone through the filtration system in Donetsk with their families and became separated from their families and are either in some form of fostering or adoption. And so when we talk about the kids crisis, it's not just one group. And while there are different experiences for each of these four subgroups, what they have been put through constitutes war crimes, sometimes different types of war crimes, but in all cases violations of the laws of armed conflict.

Brian Hanson [00:05:01] Do you have a sense of what the scope is, how many children are involved, or a sense of the ranges? I know it's probably impossible to know exactly.

Nathaniel Raymond [00:05:11] This is really the critical challenge right now. So I can say two things that are slightly new here. One is that at the time we released the report, we had over 76 locations under investigation. We only released the locations that were high confidence that we could evaluate ideally up to five sources in terms of their veracity in geo location. We know that the actual number of facilities is much higher. Both camps and those like two we identified in the report a psychiatric hospital and a family center there are serving as transshipment points for kids going into adoption or temporary residences. In the weeks ahead, we and others will be able to expand that number well beyond the 43. We already know it's significantly small against the actual scope. The second issue is the number of the kids. Our number of 6000 in the [00:06:07]humanitarian [0.0s] Research Lab report from Yale Conflict Observatory is only kids that are in the reeducation program. We have a sub number which is approximately a couple hundred to 8000 estimated within the adoption program. We know that number is going to go up and we know the 6000 number just on reeducation is low. The best number available at this point was the Ukrainian government number of 16,000 that was released by the Zelensky government about two days after our report came out. The Ukrainians also know that number is an undercount, which is a cultural issue in Ukraine. Ukrainian parents are underreporting to the Ukrainian government because they fear reprisals for being seen as collaborating with the Russians, for having sent their kids away from the fighting into Russia, or they fear of reprisals because they went into Russia to try to retrieve their children. And so one of the big stumbling blocks on numbers is on the Ukrainian side. Until that goes away, I don't think we can even begin to know now what the number is, but how bad the current numbers are.

Brian Hanson [00:07:16] How much ID information do we have about the children involved?

Nathaniel Raymond [00:07:20] In the cases of kids who have been returned? We have names and also in the cases of some of the 6000, we have names that we are [00:07:34]transferring to the [1.0s] Ukrainians at their request and kept out of the report. This is a really important question, Brian, because it gets to an issue we deal with in all types of human rights investigations, which is baseline. And the baseline here in terms of the evacuees who were in the Ukrainian institutional system, those records begin to fall apart between [00:08:00]2009-2014. [0.0s] So for kids who are in that system at the time of the invasion, in many cases, there hadn't been accurate records for almost 13 to 14 years at that point. The other problem we're dealing with in addition to this underreporting, is really on the Ukrainian side. And I say this with immense empathy and sympathy for the situation there, and they're suddenly running one of the most difficult operations that a government can run, which is going to be a multiyear, if not multi-decade, multi source identification effort with poor baseline that will involve probably DNA, birth documents, other types of records, and collating that from multiple sources and jurisdictions in a central way with very sensitive data in very different types of legal standards, consent. So we have to understand here that the Ukrainians are people in a country at war and they are attempting one of the hardest things to do in peacetime in the midst of an armed conflict. And so we have to look at that ID challenge going ahead within the reality based context about what the Ukrainians have capacity for right now.

Brian Hanson [00:09:16] That's extremely helpful and very sobering, the picture that you paint. Kathryn, I want to bring you into this conversation. As someone who studied human rights abuses around the world. And I was wondering if one of the things you could do is help us kind of situate child abduction during conflicts. I know some of your early work was in Argentina where, you know, some of these same issues emerged in the context of that conflict. But how common is this kind of crime against children in conflicts?

Kathryn Sikkink [00:09:46] Crimes against children are extremely common in [00:09:49]conflict. In terms [0.4s] of deportation, forced deportation there are, of course, examples. I mean, the Jewish children. There are estimates that some 200,000 Jewish children who were deported to Auschwitz alone and during World War Two in Asia, there were young girls who were recruited to be basically sexual slaves for the Japanese army as part of the so-called comfort women. The Argentine case is different than the Ukrainian case, of course, because it was an internal conflict and in the sense that there was an insurgent group. But that insurgent group was defeated early on. And so basically it was a case of repression of the Argentine government against mainly Argentines. And one part of that repression was that mainly people were considered to be on the left who were disappeared by the Argentine government. And quite a few of those were women of childbearing age. Some were pregnant, some gave birth in captivity. Those children were then secretly put up, but not through an adoption process. They were essentially transferred to people who supported the regime. And so there was a whole group that emerged called the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who are the mothers of women who had been pregnant or become pregnant and who had given birth in captivity. And those grandmothers to this day have been working to locate their grandchildren, and hundreds of the grandchildren have been located, but many more have not been. And so this is not a case where the children were taken across borders. But there are some similarities between what we see in the Ukraine case and we see in the Argentine case in the sense that the Argentine government believed that [00:11:47]if [0.0s] these children were sent to families supporting the regime, that they would be reeducated these babies, that they would be raised and somehow reeducated as citizens of quite different Argentina. Right. And so when you look at some of the Russian propaganda that's come out around these children, you see that there is this reeducation process as well to try to transform the identities of these children. And then in this situation of of modern civil wars in Africa and elsewhere, there's also been abduction of children, but mainly to be child soldiers or in some cases, the girls are abducted to work in the camps of these insurgent groups, cooking, cleaning, sometimes in situations of sexual slavery. This happened as well in Iraq with the Yazidi people where there was kidnaping of the girls into sexual slavery and most of the young boys were killed. But in some cases there was also forced recruitment into the insurgency. So this is a problem we've seen around the world in many different regions of the world and in different historical periods.

Brian Hanson [00:12:56] And one of the things that characterizes this period is the creation of international criminal processes to try to hold people accountable, to try to deter these kinds of efforts. Nathaniel, you've been gathering data and documenting these abuses. To what extent are you thinking about building the evidence that can be used in order to create that accountability? Is that part of what you're intentionally about?

Nathaniel Raymond [00:13:21] Yes. As we began to design the investigation that led to the children's report and all the other seven investigations that we've done, we've been thinking about three baskets of judicial outcomes. One is international processes such as the ICC. The second is supporting Ukrainian domestic processes through what's called OPG Office of the Prosecutor General. And the third is thinking about potential civil litigation, or we'll say venues to be determined. But really, civil society support for the judicial action of victims separate from prosecutions by the Ukrainian government and prosecutions by international tribunal such as the ICC. And when we began to design this report entirely with no contact with the ICC, we began to develop criteria that really made this strategically a smart call. And many people have been surprised at Buka, and the bombardment of Mariupol weren't charged first. But it makes a lot of sense that they weren't because as a war crimes investigator, those would have required on the ground forensics bomb damage analysis and ideally decrypted intercepted communications to show intent and command and control. Those take time. And if you shoot and miss, you make the alleged perpetrator feel safe and you look weak. And so for us, the criteria here in children's investigation, thinking from a prosecutorial perspective, it made perfect sense. One, we have the statements of Putin [00:15:07]and Maria Lvova-Beloval [0.3s] above or below via themselves admitting to the crime.

Brian Hanson [00:15:10] Who were the two who were indicted.

Nathaniel Raymond [00:15:12] Yes. The indictees themselves not only admitted to the crime, but they promoted the fact that they had committed the crime to a Russian domestic audience. The second is that we had a clear, systematic chain of command with a logistical system that went all the way down to the mayoral level with documentation of transfer of the children in the documentation of the means of transfer against time and place. That is extremely unique. And the third aspect here is that we have a victim set that is rare in terms of the cases I work because there are lives. And so for us, it made perfect sense to prioritize this investigation. We wanted to do it earlier. It took us months to figure out how we were going to do it. And it wasn't until October or November where the pieces really came together. And the fact that ICC, the International Criminal Court, indicted off the back of the report came as a surprise to us. But when we saw that Karim Khan charged war crimes, it felt conservative in a good way. We thought it was a conservative and totally right on the nose, charging on the two pieces in the report, which was transfer and deportation, which are distinct crimes. So for us, it really cinched up seeing the indictments. It was like we had a Balkan mind meld with the ICC in terms of of what we thought was most chargeable in both the strategic way and looking towards admissibility.

Kathryn Sikkink [00:16:50] But, Nathaniel, if I could ask you a couple of questions about that. One is, you know, mainly governments do try to hide war crimes. And so you're absolutely right, which is extraordinary. This case is they're not only trying to hide it, they're publicizing it so that it's like, is it possible Putin didn't really quite understand that these were war crimes prosecutable under the ICC? And then the second piece is that many war crimes are committed on the ground where it would have been hard to make the link all the way up to Putin. But in this case, you know, we see direct involvement and orders coming from above. So, again, it's an if you want a case where you have high level people indicted, this is a better case. And some of the on the ground work.

Nathaniel Raymond [00:17:35] So I don't want to get into Vladimir Putin's brain. But it appears from what we know now and this is evolving, is that Putin did not know this was coming and that there was really an expectation, it appears, on the Russian side, and this is in part speculation, but informed speculation that they thought the indictments would come, but that it would be on a Buka or Mariupol situation and that would work up from colonel to general and try to do a classic hierarchical charging and avoid the issue of head of state. And so I think it was really smart here that Karim Khan took the head of state question off the table and inverted a traditional charging approach from low level to high level. And this is really important for listeners that now going forward, this is just the first set of indictments. There will probably be more and they will probably be sooner rather than later. And now it's happening with the table being set. As Kathryn points out, this unique scenario where you have a perpetrator who's admitting the crime. And I think there was a lack of willful literacy on the Russian side in terms of reading the Fourth Geneva Convention and the amended protocols. Their defense of this crime is that was a humanitarian project to save the kids. And as they detail why it's humanitarian, they are detailing each piece of the Geneva Convention that they systematically violated, which provides a real playbook for what they should have done. And as they tried to refute it, they are saying that they did the opposite of what they were required under the treaty. Their party to, for us looking forward, sets the table where the next set of prosecutions will be even more sturdy because the issue of head of state has been taken off the table immediately.

Brian Hanson [00:19:25] So one of the things that really strikes me, Nathaniel, in your report is that detailed institutionalization, the levels of government, I mean, you name names and how they link together. What are the implications of these indictments for people who are currently participating in what is an ongoing system? How much at risk are they? How does it affect their potential accountability?

Nathaniel Raymond [00:19:47] If I was one of the regional governors, I would be hyperventilating right now because Putin is Putin. But for the local mayor of Krasnodar, he is not Putin. And so these individuals spent the past year on their back in telegram accounts behind a Russian firewall, thinking that they were talking to their local constituencies and in some cases volunteering on social media to transfer these children, then riding on busses, in some cases with the children because they were being transferred. And now that they are in a state of international legal liability, I think they're just waking up to. And so the next few weeks are going to be really volatile in the sense that now the chain of command, which we've identified over 90 people, not all of which were in the report down to local teachers and administrators at a town level, are now waking up to the fact that they could be looking at an arrest warrant any time now in full bank account seizure and passport and visa block. And so it's going to be important to watch what the follow on [00:21:00]cascade [0.0s] effect is of that chain of command saying, oh, okay, we are in big trouble.

Brian Hanson [00:21:09] Kathryn, how would you encourage us to look at to follow, to pay attention, to see this playing out?

Kathryn Sikkink [00:21:13] Well, the ICC does not have a police force, too. It's not the first time the ICC has done an arrest warrant for a head of state and Bashar al Assad of Sudan. There was also arrest warrant out for him, which he defied a couple of different times, traveling to states, parties of the ICC, of the Rome Statute, both South Africa and Kenya. And he was not arrested, as he should have been. Okay. So that's why when you read these reports, a lot of people are saying no one should hold their breath to see Putin in The Hague. And that's entirely correct. But I think what Nathaniel's trying to tell us is that even if we don't expect to see Putin in The Hague, there are other costs that people do worry about. So one issue is back when we had one of the first international tribunals, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, no one really knew how to arrest war criminals yet. And the early days [00:22:14]NATO [0.0s] was letting war criminals walk right past border crossing, knowing it and not arresting them because they were afraid to settle some conflict. But eventually there was a there's a fabulous book about this called The Butcher's Trail, which talks about the earliest arrests, eventually the Polish part of [00:22:30]NATO [0.0s] arrested and sent the first indicted to. The Hague, then the rest and Native troops said, Well, why can't we arrest our war criminal? And NATO started learning how to do it and being better at, in the end that tribunal, the ICTY, why got almost all of its indictees. So we presume now that these Russians first, they know that they're not going to be able to cross borders if they've got money abroad, they may lose access to that money. But then the more interesting question for me is, does this have a deterrent effect? And it really make people think twice about in this project. And what you know, I know from my own research is that the ICC can have a deterrent effect on war crimes, on civilian casualties. My own research looks at domestic prosecutions and sees that domestic prosecutions are associated with improvements in human rights, and we believe that's because they have a deterrent effect. I feel like people shouldn't hold their breath and expect any quick action. This is going to take a while. And even if there's a deterrent effect, it's going to play out very slowly. But it's a very important move. And the research that Nathaniel and his team have done that made it possible was amazing. Yeah.

Brian Hanson [00:23:45] Let me follow up, Kathryn, and ask, is there kind of an analogy for us to look at to help us understand what might play out and how that kind of deterrent effect is established?

Kathryn Sikkink [00:23:57] Well, I think that it's similar to what Nathaniel said in terms of thinking about what's happening along the chain of command. Right. And that is people get worried who've been in the chain of command that they are going to be held accountable. And that makes them think twice about how they are going to respond the next time they get an order like this. And so that's why it takes a while, I believe. And I hear what Nathaniel thinks about this, people who are deeply implicated in criminality, it's hard to deter them. Right. But what you hope to do is you hope to deter people who are not yet deeply implicated and begin to have some choices about whether they're going to join in a criminal activity like this, deportation of children, or whether they're going to stay out of it. And that's where deterrence happens.

Nathaniel Raymond [00:24:47] I think about this all the time, and I'm glad you brought it up, Kathryn, because when we were investigating Sudan, we were this Ally Sentinel project funded by George Clooney. It was after the ICC indictments had come down against Bashir and Haroon and Hussein and others. And so we were documenting alleged crimes in South Kordofan in 2011, at the time of South Sudan's secession from North Sudan. And what we saw as we were attempting to have an ambient protective effect in terms of the monitoring of alleged crimes as they were occurring to see if that could be deterring. What we saw in that context, because those individuals were already indicted in correlation, is not causation. We felt that the more they were under surveillance, their killing tempo appeared to speed up. And so one of the real struggles in Satellite Sentinel was this sense that the more we watched because they had no incentive in terms of ICC threat, they were already indicted for genocide, that their posture of their perpetration changed to trying. Like when I was a kid, there was Toys R US shopping sprees. You could win that. They were basically now trying to stop as much crime into the car is possible before the bell rang. And so we saw a different type of killing tempo and that really their focus became avoiding detection. And that actually meant going faster in some cases. I don't think that the Sudan situation is analogous with Ukraine, but it'll be interesting to begin to try to understand typologies of difference across different types of perpetration scenarios as it relates to the presence of different judicial risks

Brian Hanson [00:26:40] Yeah, I want to pick up on this idea of deterrence and the establishment of this norm that state officials who commit crimes can actually be held accountable. And I guess one of the things I'm particularly interested in this case is the US government, which has been incredibly concerned about the ICC and reluctant to participate out of concern for possible charges toward the U.S.. How do you each see this process of this case and how it's contributing to the establishment of this norm or not?

Kathryn Sikkink [00:27:15] Our audience here may not realize how recent this norm is. And people remember, of course, Nuremberg and Tokyo, but those were the exceptions, the kind of prove the rule. You could only prosecute these officials if you defeated them completely in war. So the next international tribunal was, you know, not until 1993. In the meantime, there were these domestic tribunals, like the in Argentina, in Greece, in Portugal, in Guatemala, that began to hold their own state officials accountable for mass atrocity. But accountability continued to be the exception, not the rule. And in particular, people played the fact that powerful people from powerful countries were not being held accountable. So, for example, no U.S. official has ever been held accountable for torture during the Bush administration, even though we ratified the Convention Against Torture, even though we implemented the Convention Against Torture in our domestic statutes, and torture is prohibited by international law, by domestic law, for that matter, by our Constitution, our Bill of Rights. And yet no one's been held accountable. So this indictment is huge because a powerful leader of a very powerful country and because the U.S. government, as you say, is very committed to accountability in this case. We haven't talked yet, but how does the ICC get jurisdiction? The ICC gets jurisdiction because Ukraine has referred its own cases, accepted jurisdiction under the Rome Statute, but it gets jurisdiction under an aspect of the Rome Statute, which is [00:28:56]called territorial [0.0s] jurisdiction, any crime committed on the territory of Ukraine, Ukraine can then refer that crime to the ICC. The United States fought tooth and nail not to have territorial jurisdiction in the Rome Statute, and we fought again when the ICC considered whether or not when it started investigating the Afghanistan case, whether it would investigate U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, such as deaths under torture that happened at Bagram Airbase. And so the United States is divided because it completely supports the idea of holding Putin accountable. But by doing that, it has to accept this idea of territorial jurisdiction that it has opposed since the beginning of the drafting of the Rome Statute. So it's a quite interesting story that's playing out, and I'm interested to see what will happen.

Brian Hanson [00:29:46] Nathaniel, what are your thoughts on this?

Nathaniel Raymond [00:29:49] Well, it's an important piece of background. There's been about half of my career investigating, in many cases, U.S. personnel and U.S. officials as it related to abuses against detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and the black sites as part of the CIA rendition interrogation detention program. And so for me, this is a very. Complex and confusing moment in the sense that I wonder all the time about what's changing now, what's a one off and what's a precedent as it relates to Ukraine. And I don't think we're in a position to be able to make that determination. You know, for me, as having been a war crimes investigator now for almost 24 years, I've never been in a position where I've had the resources and the political support to follow the evidence wherever it goes with all means necessary and so many hand. I'm constantly excited about what we're able to do in Ukraine, which is unprecedented. On the other hand, I'm constantly feeling both in terms of judicial precedent and in terms of resources. This immense inequity between what we're doing in Ukraine and what we haven't done in Syria, what we haven't done, including Afghanistan. And so for me, it's the best of times. It's the worst of times in the sense that I I don't know what the future is going to look like because of what's happening now with Ukraine and the ICC. And if I told you I would be lying, the answer is probably going to be a combination of pieces of precedent and pieces of one off exception given the perfect storm, which is Ukraine. Now, I leave it to scholars like Kathryn to figure out and analyze which of the presidents and which are the one off. But listeners need to know we are in a historic moment. There's before Ukraine and there's after Ukraine. And this is really a demarcation line in terms of as we look at the history of international criminal justice for mass atrocities and war crimes. This will be a waypoint as Germinal as Nuremberg.

Kathryn Sikkink [00:32:13] If I could add. We're talking here about war crimes. And I completely agree that this is going to be a inflection point, a before and after inflection point. But there's another issue here which takes us a little beyond the theme of today. But I think it's important to mention, and that is around aggressive war itself, and that is Putin underestimated this issue of the children. He completely underestimated the costs of this war. He thought because they in gotten away kind of with the forces in Crimea and on us, that they were going to be able to get away with a full fledged war of aggression. And so it could be that we're seeing a couple of turning points here where the world's awareness of this long existing prohibition on a war of aggression. Finally, the world is going to start taking it more seriously than it has. I have an obscure little op ed, but the definition of aggression we're using today to condemn the Russians was written into treaty law for the first time in 1933 by [00:33:14]Litvinov, [0.0s] the Soviet Minister of foreign affairs in the [00:33:17]Litvinov [0.0s] treaties. Right, and so it's not legally in doubt whether this is a war of aggression. We can use the Soviet 1933 definition to condemn what Russia has just done.

Brian Hanson [00:33:27] And one of the things that has come through so strongly in this conversation is these processes are slow. What's happening in Ukraine, as you both have pointed out, is going to take time. So as we close, I want to ask you both, what would you encouraged listeners to hold in mind as these events unfold? And Nathaniel, I'll start with you.

Nathaniel Raymond [00:33:50] I'm really glad you asked this question, Brian, especially is the closing for me. My mentor was Bill Haglund. Bill Haglund passed away in 2021 and he was the goat, the greatest of all time in terms of war crimes, mass atrocities, investigators. And at Bill's memorial service, I talked about Bill's rules of justice that he taught me. And the first is that justice is a process, and justice takes a long time. Justice serves many purposes. Justice is not about you. Justice is hard and you have to do it anyway. And I think what's been sort of whiplash for me is the American public and even the European public is significantly more cynical and nihilistic about these processes than I am having done them and failed 70% that I'm, you know, having having the Ted Williams quote about, you know, baseball is the only sport where you can be the best at your job and you fail 70% of the time. And it's the same thing with war crimes investigation that mostly you feel like you're losing. But the longer I do it, the more hopeful I become because the more I see how much it matters in building this sediment. This fossil record of precedent that very slowly in this is shown in Kathryn's work read clear detail. You are moving the needle mostly when you don't know that you are in, mostly when you don't know why you are in, for whom you're moving the needle. And there have been all these times over and over again the investigations I've been involved with, such as the Gambella investigation, Ethiopia massacre, no one's heard of where I've had people come to me and say, Thank you for all your successful work, you know, like there is nothing successful about it. And then it's often the affected communities themselves explaining, Well, no, you gave witness, you proved that it happened and you set us up to be able to move closer to justice on this process. It is often the people in the United States sitting in comfort who have significantly more doubt about these processes than the people who are most affected by the abuses themselves. And the message we have gotten from the ground with Ukrainians since the report has come out is that this was great, this matters. This validated their anguish and they see it as a victory. And so what I want to say to those we are sitting at home are saying, oh, well, this doesn't matter. Well, the Ukrainians wanted this and the Ukrainians feel clearly that this was, for them a victory, regardless of what happens next. Just don't forget that when you are being cynical about these long term processes that may, contrary to popular belief, actually be working.

Brian Hanson [00:36:55] Kathryn, what would you encourage your listeners to hold in mind?

Kathryn Sikkink [00:36:57] Well, first, I do think we look at it from the victims perspective, their multiple victim viewpoints. And one is in this particular case, these Ukrainian families know that these children are mainly all still alive and there's a possibility that these children could be returned to them alive, which is an incredible hope. And I think they're holding on to that and see this as a great victory for that reason. It's in many cases, if you've lost a family member, no amount of justice will ever return that member to you. So victims want justice. They demand justice, but they are not satisfied by justice, often because it cannot return a lost family member to them. It's important that we withhold evaluation of whether this works or not and that we take a longer term view when we look at the effectiveness of justice. I love the baseball metaphor. I'm gonna use that one in the future. but lemme just give you a, another international court example. The, again, this ad hoc tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the ICTY, when it was set up, everyone predicted it would fail in its first years everyone kept condemning it for failure. they said it was set up just because we couldn't, stop violence in the Balkans. So we're making ourselves feel better by setting up. tribunal, it said it would [00:36:00] never get any of its indictees. It would never prosecute the big fish.Okay. In the end, , the ICTY got almost everyone either itself prosecuted, almost everyone or transferred cases to, the courts that it worked with, like the Bosnian War crimes Chamber, and it got big fish like Milošević and Mladić and Karadžić, right? And in the future, people are gonna tell the story, the ICTY, and it's gonna be a great big success story.And what I wanna remind people is that for the first 10 years of the ICTY, it was nothing but complaints about its failure. . we've heard that very much with the ICC as well, you know, how costly it is, how it doesn't do job. So I just think we have to withhold judgment, until  we give history a little more time and I, I do believe that will look back and see this as an inflection point for the norms of accountability, but also for the history of the ICC.

Brian Hanson [00:39:12] Kathryn Sikkink of Harvard University and Nathaniel Raymond of Yale University-- I want to thank you both so much for being on Deep Dish to help us explore this global movement to end child abductions as war crimes and protect the children in times of conflict, including those in Ukraine today.

Kathryn Sikkink [00:39:29] My pleasure.

Nathaniel Raymond [00:39:30] Any day I get to talk to Kathryn is a good one. Thank you.

[Outro: Brian Hanson: And I want to thank you for tuning in to this episode of Deep Dish. As a reminder, we want to hear more from you, our listeners. So send us an email or better yet, a voice memo to You can suggest issues you'd like us to cover, guests you'd love to hear from, or you can just let us know what you think about what we're doing. And if you're looking for more deep dish in your podcast diet, tap the follow button in your podcast app so you can get each and every new episode as soon as it's released. If you think you know someone who enjoyed today's episode, please tap share. And send it to them as well. As a reminder, the opinions you heard belong to the people who express them and not the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. This episode is produced and edited by Kyra Dahring and mixed by Frank McKearn at Aphorism Productions. Thank you for listening. I'm Brian Hanson and my co-host Lizzy Shackelford will be back next week with another slice of Deep Dish.]

About the Experts
Executive Director, Humanitarian Research Lab, Yale School of Public Health
Nathaniel Raymond is the executive director of the Humanitarian Research Lab at Yale University. He specializes in the investigation of war crimes, including mass killings and torture. His team recently released a report detailing Russia’s abduction of Ukrainian children titled “Russia's Systematic Program for the Re-Education and Adoption of Ukrainian Children.”
Professor, Human Rights Policy, Harvard University
Kathryn Sikkink is the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at HKS. Sikkink works on international norms and institutions, transnational advocacy networks, the impact of human rights law and policies, and transitional justice. She has written several important books on these topics including, "Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century".
Brian Hanson
Former Vice President, Studies
Brian Hanson headshot
Brian Hanson served as the vice president of studies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He managed the Council's research operations and hosted the Council's weekly podcast, Deep Dish on Global Affairs.
Brian Hanson headshot

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