Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) are applauding the Senate passage of their Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, legislation that updates the current war crimes statute to enable prosecution of war criminals in the United States – regardless of the location or targets of their atrocities. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for war crimes discovered years after they occur.
Passage of the bill comes right before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to a joint session of Congress this evening. The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Today the Senate passed a our bill that makes good on the commitments the United States made when we signed the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The U.S. is not, and will never be, a safe haven for war criminals. Russia’s unprovoked and immoral invasion of Ukraine shines a light on the need for this legislation. I want to thank my partner and friend, Senator Durbin, for working with me to see it through the Senate,” Grassley said.
“Perpetrators committing unspeakable war crimes, such as those unfolding before our very eyes in Ukraine, must be held to account. We have the power and responsibility to ensure that the United States will not be used as a safe haven by the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Our bill will address an egregious gap in our laws to ensure that war criminals who come to the United States can be prosecuted for their crimes,” said Durbin. “I’m thrilled our bill passed the Senate unanimously and am hopeful it will be signed into law as soon as possible to send a clear message to Vladimir Putin that Congress stands with the Ukrainian people.”
Current law allows for the prosecution of people who commit war crimes in the U.S. or abroad, but only if the victim or perpetrator is a U.S. national or service member. Violators who target non-Americans are not subject to the law even after they enter the U.S. The Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act expands the original war crimes jurisdiction to include any war criminal found in the U.S.
Full text of the bill is available HERE.
Grassley and Durbin introduced the bipartisan and bicameral legislation in May, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). An identical version of the bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.). After a September U.N. report found Russian troops had committedbrutal executions, indiscriminate attacks and sexual and gender-based violence during their invasion of Ukraine – including against children – Grassley and Durbin renewed their push for the legislation.