UPDATED: Ukraine calls for accountability for Russian ‘war crimes’ ICC advance team has left to work in Ukraine war crimes probe

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GENEVA, March 3 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister said on Thursday that Russian troops were carrying out acts tantamount to war crimes in her country and called for perpetrators to be held accountable, while Russia’s envoy denounced Ukraine and the West.

“Recent events clearly point to the fact that the Russian troops fighting in Ukraine carry out the most blatant violations and abuses of human rights, systematically engage in acts that clearly amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Emine Dzhaparova told an urgent debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“We must stand together to ensure accountability for the war criminals spilling the blood of Ukrainian children.”

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, denounced the “criminal regime in Kyiv” and accused the United States and European Union of supplying lethal weapons, adding: “We do not see any added value in today’s debate.”

  •  An advance team left the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for the Ukraine region on Thursday to start investigating possible war crimes, its top prosecutor told Reuters in an interview.

Their departure comes hours after Prosecutor Karim Khan announced he would start collecting evidence as part of a formal investigation launched after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

“Yesterday I formulated a team and today they are moving to the region,” Khan said.

Khan said his office would be examining possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by all parties in the conflict.

While Ukraine is not a member of the ICC, it signed a declaration in 2014 giving the court jurisdiction over alleged grave crimes committed on its territory from 2014 onwards regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators. Russia does not recognise the court.

  • The Lithuanian prosecutor general’s office said on Thursday it had begun investigating suspected crimes against humanity and war crimes in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

“The investigation was launched with regards to the military aggression in Ukraine,” it said in a statement.

The probe will include “military attacks on civilians, doctors, destruction of homes, hospitals, educational institutions and other civilian facilities, which lead to deaths of adults and children,” it said.

Earlier, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor said he would immediately open an investigation into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine, following requests to do so by an unprecedented number of the court’s member states.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has yet to overthrow the government in Kyiv but thousands of people are believed to have been killed or injured, according to officials in both countries and the United Nations.

“Active investigations formally commence in Ukraine upon receipt of referrals by 39 state parties”, prosecutor Karim Khan tweeted.

The referrals by member states fast-track an investigation as it allows the prosecutor to skip having to seek approval of the court in The Hague, shaving months off the process. The prosecutor had already said on Monday that he would seek court approval into allegations of war crimes in Ukraine.

The prosecutor’s office would start collecting evidence for “any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person”, Khan said in a statement.

Following the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and the subsequent fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces, Ukraine accepted ICC jurisdiction for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on its territory since the end of 2013.

In December 2020 the prosecutor’s office announced it had reason to believe war crimes and other crimes were committed during the conflict in eastern Ukraine, but a request for a full investigation was not filed.

Russia is not a member of the ICC and rejects its jurisdiction.

The court can investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on Ukraine territory regardless of the nationality of the suspected perpetrators.

Photo: Armed Forces of the Ukraine

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