Janine di Giovanni

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Investigating a mass burial site in formerly Russian-held Izium, Ukraine, September 2022. Gleb Garanich / Reuters

In early March, senior officials from numerous Western countries met with international prosecutors in Lviv, Ukraine, for the United for Justice conference. Among other things, they discussed establishing an international center for prosecuting the crime of aggression. For the participants, it was the first step toward holding the Russian government accountable for invading the country. The conference was opened by President Volodymyr Zelensky and included many top legal experts, including the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan and U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. After signing the agreement, Andres Parmas, the prosecutor general of Estonia, commented that “never before” have so many countries been determined to “really do something” about the crime of aggression. …  Seguir leyendo »

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill conducts an Orthodox Easter service in Moscow on April 23. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

This month in Russia, Kirill, a powerful bishop who has been the patriarch of Moscow and primate of the Russian Orthodox Church since 2009, came out once again in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s killing machine in Ukraine. Kirill’s view is that God is on Russia’s side, even as Putin’s forces bomb maternity hospitals and the bodies of mutilated men, women, and children are discovered in Ukrainian towns recently occupied by Russian troops, such as Bucha.

In many ways, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has become a holy war for Russia. His geopolitical ambitions are closely entwined with faith: Like former U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

I covered the war in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, and I know what I saw. I traveled to besieged Sarajevo and to ethnically cleansed regions in eastern and central Bosnia where I interviewed victims of rape camps and bombing campaigns, mothers whose children were killed building snowmen, and the relatives of the elderly who were shot by snipers chopping wood to keep warm in the deep Balkan chill.

It left a painful scar that I can hardly bear to touch. Much of it is wrapped in guilt: My colleagues and I lived with the local population and tried desperately to keep their tragic narrative in the public eye.…  Seguir leyendo »

MASIAKA, SIERRA LEONE: A soldier of the Sierra Leone's army stands next to a direction board in Masiaka, some 100 kilometres east from Freetown 17 may 2000, on the frontline. Sierra Leonan rebel leader Foday Sankoh was arrested early today in Freetown and later handed over to the police by British troops. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

There is one place in the world where Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, is not vilified for his part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a West African country where, less than three years earlier, his government’s intervention helped to end one of the most vicious conflicts in recent history. In Sierra Leone, where he is a hero, the “Blair Doctrine” was a rare case of an overseas military operation not for strategic or commercial interest, but for humanitarian purposes and in the name of an ethical foreign policy. Blair would later write in his autobiography that the episode was one of his proudest moments in office.…  Seguir leyendo »

The destroyed entrance of a hospital in the village of Kafr Nabl, south of Idlib, Syria, on May 5. Credit Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After eight brutal years, it is hard to find anything shocking about the Syrian civil war. But somehow, the government forces under President Bashar al-Assad always find a way. On May 15, Syrian bombs destroyed the Tarmala Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Idlib, the 19th medical facility attacked since late April.

Mr. Assad’s campaign against hospitals is not just inhumane — it represents one of the most repellent aspects of modern warfare. Hospitals were once off limits; even in conflicts where the international laws of war were routinely flouted, medical facilities were spared.

That has changed. Governments increasingly turn on civilians, and hospitals and medical workers are being deliberately targeted in an effort to silence them.…  Seguir leyendo »

ALEPPO, SYRIA - NOVEMBER 6: Syrian civil defense team member carries a wounded girl after warcrafts belonging to Russian army carried out airstrikes over Urum al-Kubra region in Aleppo, Syria on November 6, 2016. (Photo by Beha el Halebi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Around 6:30 AM on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, before most children had left for school, Syrian Air Force Su-22 fighter jets launched missiles at the northern opposition-held town of Khan Shaykhun. Witnesses recalled a strange odor spreading after the missiles struck; people were choking and foaming at the mouth, and one resident later described how “they were suffocating while their lungs collapsed.” The airstrike contained a mixture of nerve agent–filled bombs and conventional munitions, according to James Le Mesurier, who founded the Syria Civil Defence (commonly known as the White Helmets). The White Helmets are Syrian first responders, and they are often the only rescue workers on the scene after airstrikes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ratko Mladic arriving to hear the verdict in his war crimes trial at International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague on Wednesday. Credit Peter Dejong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

I met Ratko Mladic only once. He was the general commanding the war machine destroying Bosnia and overseeing the medieval siege of Sarajevo, the capital, where I was living and reporting. I spent my days going to the morgue to count the dead and to sit in hospitals with children who had been blinded by shrapnel.

On a freezing cold day in 1993, as Sarajevo was getting pummeled with shells, I had driven to Mount Igman, a strategic mountain to the southeast, through Bosnian Serb front lines. In a pine forest, on a mud road, I found General Mladic sitting placidly in his jeep.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rebels in Aleppo say they have broken the siege of the city, but have yet to establish a secure route for civilians. Government forces under President Bashar al-Assad deny they have been pushed out of the city. The battle for Aleppo may mark a military turning point, but for Aleppo's remaining residents, it marks only an intensification of a misery that seems to go unheeded by the international community.

No one is coming to save the Syrians. If President Obama did not act in 2013 after the chemical attacks in Ghouta, where children died of asphyxiation, testing his "red line", then he surely will not act now after footage of chemical attacks two weeks ago in Idlib showed fighters, allegedly poisoned by Assad's chlorine, gasping for breath.…  Seguir leyendo »

They are vulnerable to mortar and rocket attacks and terror: reports of Shia death squads conjure up memories of another ‘clearing operation’ – Tikrit, in 2015’ Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty

My memory of Falluja is of roads leading to the city, of fields of swaying date palm trees, which my Iraqi friend Thaier once told me represented the souls of the country’s people. “They are symbols of our hopes and dreams,” he said, pointing to the lush fields along the Euphrates, on a trip we took crossing Iraq east to west and north to south, in the late winter of 2003. It was shortly before the invasion that crushed all those hopes and dreams.

Today, more than a week into the US-backed Iraqi forces offensive on Falluja, that trip seems very long ago, in the distant land that once was Iraq.…  Seguir leyendo »

An elementary school in Aleppo, Syria, damaged in fighting. Five years of civil war has put Syrians’ lives on hold. Credit Jerome Sessini/Magnum Photos

The bodies of the dead had been cleared away, but I could still smell them — pungent and unmistakable.

I wanted to talk to witnesses of the attack, but most people, terrified by days of helicopter bombardment and machine gun assaults, were hiding in their houses. Then, in the town square, we came across a few people whose houses had been bombed. They were covered in dust and soot, but they had survived.

One man, a mechanic who had been blinded in one eye by shrapnel, said he had searched for three days for his father. He found him eventually, lying inside a farmhouse near the edge of town with three other bodies — young men between the ages of 16 and 20, the mechanic reckoned.…  Seguir leyendo »

What does it feel like when a war begins? When does life as you know it implode? How do you know when it is time to pack up your home and your family and leave your country? Or if you decide not to, why?

For ordinary people, war starts with a jolt: one day you are busy with dentist appointments or arranging ballet lessons for your daughter, and then the curtain drops. One moment the daily routine grinds on; A.T.M.’s work and cellphones function. Then, suddenly, everything stops.

Barricades go up. Soldiers are recruited and neighbors work to form their own defense.…  Seguir leyendo »

Every year since the war ended in Bosnia in 1995, I have tried to return to Sarajevo, a city in which I passed some of the saddest years of my life. I was there during the war, in those days of no water or electricity. I was there the night Slobodan Milosevic was carted off in his slippers from Belgrade to The Hague. I drove all night down to Sarajevo just to be with my wartime friends. I arrived at dawn, thinking people would be dancing in the streets. Instead there was a sombre air. I met one of my closest friends, a former sniper, and he shrugged: "What's done is done.…  Seguir leyendo »