THE HAGUE, Netherlands –
Government officials from dozens of countries will meet Thursday in the Netherlands to discuss with the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court how best to coordinate efforts to bring war crimes perpetrators in Ukraine to justice.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, his military forces have been accused of abuses ranging from assassinations in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha to deadly attacks on civilian facilities, including the bombing of the 16 March from a theater in Mariupol that an Associated Press investigation established likely killed about 600 people.
AP and FRONTLINE, which are tracking incidents in Ukraine, have so far counted 338 possible war crimes.
In a statement on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Moscow to stop forced deportations in Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, saying an estimated 900,000 to 1.6 million Ukrainians have been “interrogated, detained and forcibly deported” to Russia.
“Moscow’s actions appear premeditated and draw immediate historical comparisons to Russian ‘leak’ operations in Chechnya and other areas,” Blinken said. “President Putin’s ‘leak’ operations are separating families, confiscating Ukrainian passports and issuing Russian passports in an apparent effort to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine.”
Blinken said that Putin and his government “will not be able to participate in these systematic abuses with impunity. Accountability is imperative. That is why we support the efforts of the Ukrainian and international authorities to collect, document and preserve evidence of atrocities. Together, they are dedicated to holding accountable the perpetrators of war crimes and other atrocities.”
Some 40 nations from the European Union and around the world will be represented at Thursday’s conference hosted by Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan and European Union Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders. .
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to address government representatives in recorded video messages before they meet behind closed doors to discuss coordinating investigations and collecting evidence as the ICC and different countries investigate cases. of war crimes.
The meeting comes as investigations are already underway at the national and international level. Topics include how investigators from different countries can collect and document evidence, including of sexual crimes, so that it can be used in other jurisdictions.
Khan opened an investigation in Ukraine in early March after dozens of member countries of the world court asked him to intervene. He has visited Ukraine to see first-hand the horrors inflicted on the country and sent the largest team of investigators in the court’s history to gather evidence.
So far, the court has not announced any arrest warrants for the suspects in the investigation that could reach the top of Russia’s military chain of command, as well as the Kremlin.
The ICC is a court of last resort that opens cases when other countries are unwilling or unable to prosecute. The Hague-based court has no police force to make arrests and relies on assistance from other countries to detain suspects.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine are among the court’s 123 member states, but Kyiv has accepted the court’s jurisdiction. Ukraine, whose attorney general Iryna Venediktova plans to attend the Hague conference, has opened thousands of war crimes investigations since hostilities began.
The EU’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust, helped set up a Joint Investigation Team made up of Ukraine and five other European nations. The equipment is intended to help facilitate the sharing of evidence.