29th Sep 2023

EU will support investigation into war crimes in Ukraine

  • Kyiv is currently investigating over 6,000 alleged war crimes, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor general office (Photo: Ukraine foreign ministry)
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The European Commission has pledged to support an investigation into potential war crimes in Ukraine — following reports of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Bucha, Irpin, and other Ukrainian cities.

"One thing is clear, there can be no impunity. Those responsible for the atrocities in war crimes in Ukraine must be held accountable, and we will do everything possible towards this goal," a commission spokesperson said on Wednesday (13 April).

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The message follows a visit of EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell to Kyiv and Bucha last week — which prompted Brussels to support investigation efforts on the ground.

The EU executive has called on member states to assist with a list of requests received from the Ukrainian general prosecutor.

This includes, for instance, support in documenting war crimes, training for investigators, providing experts with forensic expertise and equipment for the secure storage of evidence, as well as secure lines of communication.

The EU advisory mission, which began operation in Kyiv in 2014, will also be tasked to cooperate with the Ukrainian general prosecutor for the collection of evidence on the ground.

Additionally, the EU has set up a joint investigation team with Ukraine to collect evidence and investigate the atrocities reported in recent weeks — in cooperation with the International Criminal Court in The Hague which in early March decided to open an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

"This team supported by [the EU judicial agency] Eurojust should become the hub for swiftly exchanging information between prosecutors," the commission spokespersons said.

The EU commission also announced that it is revising the mandate of Eurojust to give them the "legal possibility" to collect and store evidence on war crimes — namely audio and video recordings. That proposal is expected in the coming weeks.

While Eurojust has "practical experience" in investigating war crimes, the current EU rules did not foresee "crimes of this extent," the spokesperson said.

In parallel, the EU commission will launch €7.5m in projects to support the investigation and large data collection on missing and disappeared persons.

'Clear patterns'

Borrell met with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the prosecutor of Ukraine on Monday to discuss how to hold Russia accountable for "gross violations of international law."

But others, including US president Joe Biden, have described Russian actions as a "genocide".

A mission deployed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine has found "clear patterns" of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces, a report revealed on Wednesday.

Russia has been accused of directing attacks against the civilian population in hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters, as well as depriving thousands of civilians trapped in cities under siege of their rights.

And Kyiv is currently investigating over 6,000 alleged war crimes, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor general office.

"Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians… These war crimes must stop immediately," the EU council said in a statement on Wednesday.

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