ICC sends ‘largest investigation team ever’ to Ukraine

Soldiers are seen around piles of sand that were used to block a road in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, amid Russian attacks.

Aytac Unal, Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

  • The team of 42 members of the ICC consists of investigators, forensic experts and support staff.
  • The team will work with Ukrainian authorities and French experts who are already in Ukraine.
  • The ICC announced an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity four days after the Russian invasion.

The International Criminal Court on Tuesday sent a team of 42 members to Ukraine to investigate alleged war crimes since the Russian invasion in what it called the largest such deployment in its history.

The team consists of investigators, forensic experts and support staff and will work with the Ukrainian authorities, said Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the Hague-based ICC.

“This represents the largest single-field deployment of my office to date since its inception,” Khan said in a statement. The ICC was set up in 2002 to investigate the world’s worst crimes.

The team will “promote our investigation of crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and provide support to the Ukrainian national authorities,” he added.

Khan thanked the Netherlands, where the court is based, for sending a “significant number of Dutch national experts” to help the mission.

The court will also work with French experts who are already in Ukraine, he said.

The ICC prosecutor announced an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity just four days after the Russian invasion on February 24.

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Khan visited Ukraine in April and traveled to the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where AFP journalists saw at least 20 bodies lying on the streets on April 2.

Khan said at the time that “Ukraine is a crime scene”.

Ukraine has blamed Russian forces for hundreds of civilian killings, but Russia has denied responsibility for the deaths and described the events in Bucha as false.

– ‘Law in action’ –

The team of ICC investigators arriving in Ukraine now would hunt down clues and gather testimonies “relevant to military attacks,” Khan said in his statement.

They would also work with the Ukrainian authorities to “strengthen the custody chain in terms of hard evidence,” he said.

“Now more than ever we have to show the law in action,” Khan added.

“It is important that we show the families of survivors and victims that international law is relevant to their experience … to bring them some degree of comfort through the justice process.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he had discussed the issue with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who visited on Tuesday.

“One of the ways we support is through the Dutch forensic investigation team, which this week will participate in the investigation of war crimes in Ukraine,” Rutte tweeted.

Kuleba said there were “very positive” signs of bringing the perpetrators to justice, citing the ongoing lawsuit in the Netherlands over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

“The culprits will be identified and punished,” Kuleba told a joint news conference with his Dutch colleague Wopke Hoekstra.

Ukraine also “fully” supports the idea of ​​setting up a special court to prosecute Russia’s “aggression crime,” a crime that the ICC has no power to prosecute, Kuleba added.

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ICC sends ‘largest investigation team ever’ to Ukraine

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