27th Mar 2023

Ukraine files cases against 45 suspected war criminals

  • There are at least 20 ongoing international investigations into alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine (Photo: Ukraine foreign ministry)
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Ukraine has filed court papers against 45 suspected war criminals, of whom 10 have been already convicted for crimes committed since the Russian invasion in late February, according to Ukraine's prosecutor general Andriy Kostin.

"We all understand that crimes committed by Russia in Ukrainian territory are not only against Ukrainian people. These crimes are against the civilised world," he told a press conference in The Hague on Thursday (13 October).

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Kostin also said they have also notified another 186 war-crime suspects in absentia. "We can't just stop the case because we don't know where they are."

The comments came as the EU's judicial agency, Eurojust, announced an expansion of the investigation team they coordinate to shed light on alleged international crimes committed in Ukraine.

The team of prosecutors, established within a week after Russia invaded Ukraine, include Lithuania, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On Thursday, Romania also joined the group.

"We think that taking part in this joint endeavour, in order to combat and to take perpetrators in front of a court when it comes to international crimes, is our duty as a prosecutor and as neighbours of Ukraine," said Romanian prosecutor general Gabriela Scutea.

On top of the joint investigation team, 14 EU member states have launched their own national inquiries into alleged international crimes committed in Ukraine.

However, according to Eurojust president Ladislav Hamran, there are 20 ongoing international investigations — which call for coordination in order to avoid conflict of jurisdictions, unnecessary competition and overlapping efforts.

"This armed conflict will be or already is the best-documented armed conflict in the history of mankind," he said, adding that current national and international efforts in documenting core international crimes in Ukraine should set an example for present and future armed conflicts.

For its part, the ICC has deployed its largest team ever to work in Ukraine — a group of 51 experts, including forensic specialists from the Netherlands.

"In three weeks' time, we will have an even larger deployment, additional people in the field," said ICC prosecutor, Karim A. A. Khan.

Khan also noted that Kyiv could extradite Russian war crimes suspects to the ICC if trials could not take place in Ukraine for a valid reason — despite Russia not being a member of the ICC.

"Legally yes it wouldn't represent an obstacle to our jurisdiction," Khan told reporters.

When asked when the ICC will file its own first charges, he said he would wait until the "evidence is sufficient."

"The credibility of this process requires me as the prosecutor of the ICC and my office, to have the detachment objectivity and thoroughness that is required to build a case that will be challenged and has to satisfy the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt," he said.


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More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes

A Joint Investigation Team combines prosecutors, police and judges from different countries who come together under the coordination of Eurojust to synchronise cross-border investigations — with a track record of achieving results: from the Bataclan attacks to the MH17 investigation.

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