3 nations join international team to investigate war crimes in Ukraine | Policy

By MIKE CORDER – Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Three more nations joined an international fact-finding team investigating war crimes in Ukraine on Tuesday, and the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said he plans to open an office in Kyiv, amid continued appeals to those responsible for atrocities from Russia. the invasion to be brought to justice.

Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia signed an agreement during a two-day coordination meeting in The Hague to join Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine in the joint investigation team that will help coordinate the sharing evidence of atrocities through the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency Eurojust.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said the teamwork underlines the international community’s commitment to the rule of law.

“I think it shows that there is this common front of legality that is absolutely essential, not only for Ukraine… but for the maintenance of peace and security around the world,” he said. -he declares.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has been widely condemned as an unlawful act of aggression. Russian forces have been accused of killing civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and repeatedly attacking civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol, which served as a shelter for hundreds of civilians. An Associated Press investigation found evidence that the March 16 bombing killed nearly 600 people inside and outside the building.

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Since the February 24 invasion of Russia, the AP and PBS Frontline series have verified 273 potential war crimes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the killings of civilians “genocide” and “war crimes”, while US President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” who should be brought to justice.

The team which met on Monday and Tuesday at Eurojust headquarters in The Hague was set up at the end of March, weeks after the ICC opened an investigation in Ukraine, after dozens of member states of the Court ruled in favor of an investigation. Khan has been to Ukraine, including Bucha, and has a team of investigators – the largest team of prosecutors ever deployed by the international tribunal – in the country to collect evidence.

Khan now plans to work on opening an office in Ukraine “in the coming weeks”.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office had already opened some 15,000 war-related criminal investigations and identified more than 500 suspects, including Russian ministers, military commanders and propagandists. She said her office was ready to prosecute some 80 of them.

Last week, in the first such war-related case, a Ukrainian court sentenced a captured Russian soldier to the maximum sentence of life in prison for killing a civilian. On Tuesday, a Ukrainian court found two Russian soldiers guilty of war crimes for bombing civilian buildings and sentenced them both to 11 and a half years in prison.

Russia strongly denies that its troops are responsible for atrocities. The Ministry of Defense said earlier this month that “not a single civilian has faced violent action from the Russian military”.

Analysts warn the justice process will be long and complex as investigators gather forensic and other evidence and seek to establish who ordered or knew about the atrocities and failed to act to prevent or punish them.

The meeting in The Hague is not the only place where accountability is sought.

Prosecutors in Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, France, Slovakia, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland have opened their own investigations. And there have been growing calls for the creation of a special tribunal to try Russia for the crime of aggression in Ukraine. The ICC cannot prosecute the crime of aggression because neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the court.

Khan said the united front of nations investigating crimes since the Russian invasion “can hopefully provide some modicum of accountability for the crimes we see in Ukraine that really shouldn’t be tolerated anymore.”

Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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