'War is a crime against humanity'

March of Peace in Moscow. September 21, 2014. putnik, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Ukrainian Pacifist Movement (24 February)

Ukrainian Pacifist Movement condemns all military actions on the sides of Russia and Ukraine in the context of current conflict. We call the leadership of both states and military forces to step back and sit at the negotiation table. Peace in Ukraine and around the world can be achieved only in a nonviolent way.

War is a crime against humanity. Therefore, we are determined not to support any kind of war and to strive for the removal of all causes of war.


CND (24 February)

In response to the news that Russian troops have entered Ukraine, CND General Secretary Kate Hudson warned of the increased threat of nuclear war:

"Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine: the country is paying a heavy economic and human price for this conflict. But this conflict also presents a much wider threat: the existential threat of a nuclear war between the United States and Russia.

"The US and Russia have almost 12,000 nuclear weapons between them - some are 3,000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. The possibility of nuclear war is the greatest for many decades.

"We urge our government to get all parties to the negotiating table, to secure Russian troop withdrawal, to make the Minsk agreements work and call a halt to NATO expansion.

"There is no possibility whatsoever that war will resolve these complex problems, and it might end with the destruction of humanity. Only dialogue and openness to the concerns of others will make a difference. This is where government efforts must be focused."

CND is calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to end the bellicose rhetoric and work to bring all parties to the negotiating table. CND members will be lobbying the Prime Minister online. CND's model letter to lobby the Prime Minister can be found here.

You can also stand against war by joining us on Saturday, 26 February, for an emergency international online rally, calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops and no more NATO expansion. Register for the event here.


Fellowship of Reconciliation (24 February)

Christian peace-making charity, The Fellowship of Reconciliation, has condemned the Russian declaration of war against the Ukraine. We urge politicians on all sides to take action for a peaceful resolution of this situation and for Christians to speak out, to pray regularly for peace and to support any humanitarian calls for help. 

John Cooper, FoR director said:

"Events culminating in the invasion have undone decades of negotiations towards peace and democracy in the Ukraine and the wider European Region. We endorse the call from Pacifists in the Ukraine to get all parties back round the negotiating table and to ensure the foundations for true lasting security are laid.

"While politicians must pursue a peaceful resolution to this conflict, we cannot ignore the many civilians at risk from warfare. We urge all nations to offer sanctuary to those who flee for their own safety and highlight calls for human rights observers to ensure any abuses carried out in war do not go unpunished.

"Our members will be praying for peace. We will uphold politicians and remember all conscientious objectors to conscription in Russia and Ukraine."

The Fellowship calls on all people of faith to commit themselves to prayer and action for peace. We believe that peace in the region is still possible and paths towards reconciliation can and must be found.

The Fellowship will be holding a Zoom meeting of prayers for peace at 7.30pm on Friday 25 February and every Friday evening thereafter, until the fighting stops. All are invited and you can register here.


The International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) (25 February)

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: An Illegal War of Aggression

The International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) strongly condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The Russian invasion is in clear violation of international law, and is causing the people of Ukraine to experience terror, suffering, and death. Given the increased risk of nuclear weapons use, whether intentionally or by miscalculation, it also exposes the peoples of the region and the world as a whole to harm on a vast scale.

I. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an illegal war of aggression.

The invasion is a violation of the United Nations Charter, Article 2(4), which prohibits the “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” It cannot be justified as an act of self-defense under Article 51 of the Charter. Nor do any of the rationales offered by Putin withstand even minimal scrutiny. Thus there is no basis for claiming that the invasion will prevent “genocide.”

The invasion constitutes an act of aggression under general international law. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines a state act of aggression as “the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.” The leaders of an aggressor state may be individually responsible for the crime of aggression, one of the core crimes set out in the Rome Statute. Under the Charter of the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg Charter), waging a war of aggression is a crime against peace, and leaders of the Third Reich were convicted of that crime.

II. Putin’s thinly veiled references to resort to nuclear weapons should other states intervene militarily are unlawful threats of force under the UN Charter, Article 2(4), because they are an element of the unlawful invasion. They are also contrary to general international law because they threaten the commission of an illegal act—here the use of nuclear weapons.

In its 1996 Advisory Opinion (para. 78), the International Court of Justice stated that if use of a weapon would not meet the requirements of international humanitarian law governing the conduct of warfare, the threat of such use would be contrary to that law. It is now widely recognized that use of nuclear weapons is illegal under humanitarian law, most centrally because they cannot meet the requirement of discrimination between military targets and civilian persons/infrastructure. More than 25 years ago, the Court found such use, or threatened use, to be illegal. The main circumstance in which the Court could not reach a conclusion, when the survival of a state is at stake, is not at issue for Russia in the present crisis.

In a 5 January 2022 joint statement, Russia and the other four nuclear weapon states acknowledged by the Non-Proliferation Treaty affirmed the Reagan-Gorbachev principle “that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Putin’s recent references to possible Russian use of nuclear arms cannot be reconciled with that affirmation.

III. Several US and NATO actions in relation to Russia since the mid-1990s, in particular opening the door to Ukraine’s membership in NATO in 2008, were unwise and even reckless in their disregard of the security concerns of Russia. That in no way, legally or morally, serves to justify Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

IV. In the months preceding the invasion, the United Nations and states involved in the crisis failed to achieve a purpose of the UN set out in Article 1(1) of the Charter, “to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, … settlement of international disputes … which might lead to a breach of the peace.” It is now the duty of those states to bring about a cease-fire, and to resolve differences in accordance with Article 2(3) of the Charter, which requires member states to settle “international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” It is also the responsibility of the UN Security Council to restore international peace and security. Should the Security Council not be able to act due to the veto afforded Russia as a permanent member of the Council, the General Assembly should act, as it has numerous times over the decades, under the Uniting for Peace resolution (377A, 3 November 1950).

IALANA stands against Russia’s unlawful acts of war and threats of nuclear force. We call for both sides to comply with international humanitarian law, respect human rights, and provide access to humanitarian aid. We further call for an immediate cease-fire, dialogue and diplomacy, and fulfilment of the requirements of the UN Charter.

Phon van den Biesen and Takeya Sasaki, co-presidents of IALANA


International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) (24 February)

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Putinís threat to use nuclear weapons. War is never acceptable and Russian attacks on Ukraine, particularly using nuclear weapons, will have catastrophic consequences for civilians.

The international community must stand united in ensuring that we protect and support civilians, and strongly reject the violations of international law by Russia.

While all wars are unacceptable, ICAN warns that recent Russian behaviour risks escalating the conflict to one involving nuclear weapons. 

Last week, Putin conducted a strategic nuclear weapons exercise, practising dropping weapons of mass destruction on civilians with intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine launched missiles and bombers. 

Even more concerningly, this morning Putin stated that: "No matter who tries to stand in our way Russia will respond immediately, and the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history," in a thinly-veiled threat to use nuclear weapons. 

This amounts to threats to use nuclear weapons, as prohibited under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is clear from his words and actions that the use of nuclear weapons is always on the table and the risk of nuclear weapons use is increasing.

This conflict is already harming the civilian population. Adding threats to mass murder civilians with nuclear weapons does nothing to protect people. The only thing nuclear weapons do in this situation is elevate the risk of a massive humanitarian catastrophe.

We urge Russia, Belarus and all other states to not engage in any military activities involving nuclear weapons, such as nuclear weapons exercises and other possible deployments of nuclear weapons. Belarus' referendum on Sunday to revoke its nuclear-weapon-free pledge in its constitution adds fuel to the fire in an already tense time.

We urge the international community to strongly pressure Russia to engage in dialogue and diplomacy, to return to compliance with the UN Charter, respect international humanitarian and human rights law and join relevant treaties to reduce nuclear weapons risks, including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


War Resisters' International (24 February)

As War Resisters' International, we are extremely concerned about the war in Ukraine. War is a crime against humanity!

We call on Russia to immediately cease all attacks and withdraw its troops from the borders with Ukraine.

We call on the people of Luhansk/Lugansk and Donetsk/Donetsk to make it clear to the Russian government that they want to determine their own destiny, not at the price of war.

We call on the Ukrainian government to renounce military resistance and to proclaim civil resistance instead.

We call on the Ukrainian people to refuse all obedience to a possible new government installed by Russia. This is called social defence. If everyone refuses to obey Russia's orders, if Russia occupies Ukraine, it will ultimately not be able to achieve its goals.

We also call on the Russian people and Russian soldiers to refuse all obedience to their government's acts of war, to resist non-violently and to bring about the removal of the Putin regime. This is also part of social defence.

We call on Russia, the UN, the OSCE, NATO and all governments to start negotiations immediately.

We call on NATO members to show moderation in their response to Russian aggression and not to make the Russian people pay for the crimes of their leadership.

We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine in these difficult times and we support those resisting war in Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere.

War Resisters' International Executive Committee


Quakers in Britain (24 February)

Quakers in Britain strongly condemn the attack on Ukraine. It is a grave development for humanity, and a violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.

“Our belief in the preciousness of all human life leads us to oppose all war", said Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain.

Quakers have always held peacebuilding as a core principle for life:

'All bloody principles and practices we do utterly deny, with all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole world.' Quaker declaration 1660

This sentiment applies as much today, in a world of nuclear weapons, as it did then.

Quakers call for a cessation of fighting and for all parties to observe international law, including international humanitarian law. This prominently includes the Geneva Conventions, which regulate the conduct of war, and to which both Russia and Ukraine are states parties. All sides should take the earliest opportunity to halt hostilities and to resume negotiations.

Protection of human life should be of primary importance. “We know war leads to unimaginable suffering. In particular, exposing children to violence can have lifelong damaging effects", said Paul Parker.

“All sides should commit to establishing and respecting humanitarian corridors allowing civilians to flee the fighting. We also appeal for conduct that avoids embedding grievances and injustices that will become the seeds of future violent conflict. Crucially, this means doing everything possible to avoid and resist the creation of enmity between peoples. It also means persevering with efforts to engage in dialogue and preparing the ground for the return of people to their homes."

Although war makes dialogue and peacemaking far more difficult, it does nothing to diminish the need for courageous peacemaking efforts. We know there are people in both Russia and Ukraine working tirelessly for peace. We continue to uphold and stand in solidarity with them at this violent and perilous time.


World BEYOND War (24 February)

President Biden is half right when he refers to "an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces" - unjustified indeed, unprovoked not in the least. Two sides have been escalating this conflict for years, each claiming to be acting defensively, each provoking the other. The NATO nations' weaponry and forces that are now imagined as a solution are also the original source of the conflict. It is right to grow indignant now about Ukraine's sovereignty but so would it have been during the U.S.-backed coup eight years ago that has endangered Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

This is no time for anything other than de-escalation by all sides. The United Nations and the International Criminal Court ought to be upholding the rule of law just as if this were in Africa rather than Europe, exactly as ought to have been done with the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, et alia. Criminal sanctions that violate the Geneva Conventions are not a means of holding warmakers to the rule of law. Prosecutions in courts are.

We need nuclear weapons taken out of service by both sides. We need serious negotiations, beginning with the Minsk 2 agreement, not just empty talk. We need nations other than Russia or the United States to step up and insist on de-escalation and de-militarization, before this slowly spiralling madness reaches nuclear apocalypse.