In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers introduced a bill to broaden the scope of people who are subject to war crimes prosecution.
The Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. It was introduced in the House by Reps. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., and David Cicilline, D-R.I.
The bill updates the current war crimes law to enable prosecution of war criminals in the United States regardless of the location or targets of their atrocities.
The current law allows for the prosecution of people who commit war crimes in the United States or against Americans abroad, but violators who targeted non-Americans are not subject to the law even after they enter the United States, according to a statement released by Grassley's office.
The new bill expands original war crimes jurisdiction to include war criminals found in the United States, even if they never targeted U.S. nationals.
"The United States must not be a safe haven for war criminals looking to escape justice in their home country," Grassley said. "While laws on the books hold war criminals accountable for acts against Americans, war criminals who enter the United States shouldn't get a free pass just because they haven't targeted Americans.
"This bill sends a strong message that people who commit war crimes are not welcome here and should be punished, regardless of where their offense was committed or who they victimized," Grassley said.
Graham added: "I'm very pleased to be working with Senators Grassley, Durbin, and Leahy to update our war crimes statute. Our legislation will help us address the atrocities committed in Ukraine by Russian forces and leaders.
"This proposal will give the United States jurisdiction to hold accountable any suspected war criminal found in the United States. We must ensure the United States is a war criminal-free zone for those who commit atrocities."
Durbin, in a statement released by his office, noted: "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."
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