More than a year into Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine, and the human toll continues to mount. The alleged abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children by Russians is one of the deepest injuries.

Now, the International Criminal Court, an independent tribunal based in The Hague, is ready to seek arrest warrants against the Russians they believe are responsible for taking those children from their families and country – and for purposely destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure.

But making the arrests, and ultimately seeking justice, won’t be easy.

Stefan Schmitt of Florida International University has helped secure forensic evidence in war-torn countries. This week, he provides an update on the challenges that lie ahead of the ICC. Schmitt explains that proving the children were abducted may be more challenging than for other war crimes.

“It surprises me that arrest warrants would be issued for the abduction of Ukrainian children. In order to successfully prosecute this crime, investigators will need to show that not only did the alleged abductors take the children against their will, but that they also did not intend to return the children to their legal guardians,” he writes.

What’s more, even if the abductors are prosecuted, there’s no guarantee the children will be reunited with their families soon or ever because the ICC is not charged with investigating the fate of victims of war crimes.

“This will take a separate effort, decades of work and cost a large amount of money, requiring the support of rich countries.”

Lorna Grisby

Senior Politics & Society Editor

Thousands of teddy bears with candles on display at a protest in Brussels in February 2023 represented abducted Ukrainian children. Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Prosecuting Russians for abducting Ukrainian children will require a high bar of evidence – and won’t guarantee the children can come back home

Stefan Schmitt, Florida International University

The International Criminal Court is slated to soon issue its first arrest warrants for Russians allegedly responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.

A U.S. surveillance drone flies over the USS Coronado in the Pacific Ocean during an April 2021 drill. U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe

Downing of US drone in Russian jet encounter prompts counterclaims of violations in the sky – an international law expert explores the arguments

Ashley S. Deeks, University of Virginia

International law states that states have to operate ‘due regard’ for the right of nations to fly drones above international waters. Washington claims Russia violated this standard in incident.

Approach with caution, advises a journalism scholar. simon kr/E+/Getty Images

Don’t trust the news media? That’s good

Michael J. Socolow, University of Maine

Journalism has been fodder for politicians’ contempt for generations. A huge percentage of the public doesn’t trust the news media either. That mistrust isn’t a bad thing in a democracy.

Fines for breaking US pollution laws can vary widely among states – that may violate the Constitution

Jerry Anderson, Drake University

A new study reveals wide disparities among state-issued Clean Water Act fines, and even among federal fines from regions to region. A law professor explains why it may be illegal.

I went to CPAC to take MAGA supporters’ pulse – China and transgender people are among the top ‘demons’ they say are ruining the country

Alexander Hinton, Rutgers University - Newark

A scholar of extremism attended the CPAC meeting in March, in part to try to understand political polarization, and only saw signs of a worsening divide.

It’s been 20 years since the US invaded Iraq – long enough for my undergraduate students to see it as a relic of the past

Andrea Stanton, University of Denver

University students today are too young to remember the March 2003 start of the Iraq War, which has future foreign policy implications and changes how the conflict should be taught.

Neighbors Ohio and Michigan are moving further apart in politics – differences in ballot access may explain why

David Jackson, Bowling Green State University; Dominic D. Wells, Bowling Green State University

Voters in Michigan and Ohio once voted similarly in statewide and federal elections. Now, Michigan swings blue and Ohio is red.

Tennessee’s drag ban rehashes old culture war narratives

Heather Hensman Kettrey, Clemson University ; Alyssa J. Davis, Vanderbilt University

Emphasizing threats to children is a well-worn refrain among those worried about the decline of American culture and values.

Syrian earthquake devastated an area that was already a disaster zone – and highlights the vital role of local aid groups

Kimberly Howe, Tufts University

A scholar who visited Syria after the earthquake observes that as the war has dragged on, a humanitarian organization she’s researched for 10 years has branched out.

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