Defense

Senators blast Pentagon for withholding evidence from Russia war crimes probes

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was joined by Democrats on Wednesday in calling out the Department of Defense for what he said were U.S. roadblocks stifling global war crimes investigations into Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

In a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday, Graham said the Pentagon was refusing to share U.S. intelligence with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating Russian war crimes and issued an arrest warrant last month for Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“The Department of Justice has been great; the Department of Defense has been terrible,” Graham said. “The reservations of the Department of Defense are holding back the transfer of information that would be vital to allowing the ICC to be more aggressive in prosecutions.”

Last December, the Senate voted to allow the government to share intelligence about the Ukraine war with the ICC for the first time. The U.S. is not a party to the court due to concerns related to Americans being prosecuted for war crimes.

However, the New York Times reported last month that military leaders remain opposed to sharing intelligence with the court.

“The law we passed should be honored,” Graham said. “I don’t care about what [the DoD’s] concerns are. They can share them with me. We’ve got a law on the books.”

Graham’s sentiment was backed by multiple Democratic senators, including Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

“I wholeheartedly endorse [Graham’s] pressure on you to sort it out within the administration,” Whitehouse said, questioning Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “Whatever is blocking cooperation with the International Criminal Court needs to be corrected so the administration is in compliance with the law that Congress passed. To me, it’s simple as that.”

Last month, a bipartisan letter led by Graham and Durbin called on the White House to follow the law passed by Congress and share intelligence with the court.

Monaco referred questions about intel sharing with the Department of Defense. The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment. 

Graham also urged the Biden administration to name Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation which would allow the government to enact the most severe sanctions on the country. 

The Biden administration has resisted the state sponsor of terrorism label, worrying it would be too limiting diplomatically.

“The state sponsor of terrorism designation … has some unintended consequences,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview with CNN last year.

Tags Department of Defense Dick Durbin Dick Durbin International Criminal Court Lindsey Graham Lindsey Graham pentagon Richard Blumenthal russia Russian war crimes Sheldon Whitehouse Sheldon Whitehouse ukraine Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin

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