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Lithuania begins war crime trials for 65 former Soviet military officials

[JURIST] Lithuania began war crime trials for 65 former Soviet military officials on Wednesday. The officials are accused [AFP report] of committing crimes against humanity during the 1991 crackdown by the Soviet Union during Lithuania's independence movement. The action resulted in 14 civilian deaths and over 700 others wounded by the Soviet army. Russian officials are refusing to help with the investigation and many of the accused will not be present during the trial, instead being represented by court-appointed attorneys. Two of the accused, Yuri Mel, a former tank commander and Gennady Ivanov, a former munitions officer, were present [Reuters report] for the start of the trial. Both claim they are innocent. Prosecutors are currently determining whether to charge [Reuters report] former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev [BBC profile] with war crimes, a decision likely to made by this summer.

Russia's military actions have garnered a lot of international attention over the last few years. Yesterday, the International Criminal Court approved an investigation [JURIST report] into the 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict. Georgia brought a case [JURIST report] before the International Court of Justice in August 2008, shortly after Russia sent troops into Georgia. Last month, Amnesty International (AI) filed a briefing [JURIST report] stating that Russian air strikes in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians and may amount to violations of international humanitarian law. In 2014, AI also found that Russia may be responsible for war crimes [JURIST report] in their ongoing conflict [BBC timeline; JURIST backgrounder] in Ukraine [JURIST news archive].

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