International Criminal Court sends ‘largest-ever’ probe team to Ukraine


The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday (ICC) announced that a 42-member strong team has been sent to Ukraine on Tuesday to probe into alleged war crimes perpetrated by invading Russian forces.

In what ICC calls the largest such deployment in its history, the team comprises investigators, forensic experts and support staff and will work with Ukrainian authorities.

The ICC, which is based in the Hague, was set up in 2002 to probe the world’s worst crimes. It has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

“This represents the largest-ever single field deployment by my office since its establishment,” ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement.

The team will “advance our investigations into crimes falling into the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and provide support to 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 would 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 24 Feb Russian invasion.

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

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

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

The team of ICC investigators arriving in Ukraine now would chase up leads and collect witness testimony “relevant to military attacks”, said Khan in his statement.

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

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

“It is essential that we demonstrate to survivors and the families of victims that international law is relevant to their experience … to bring them some measure of solace through the process of justice.”

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

“One of the ways we support is via the Dutch forensic investigation team that this week will join the investigation into war crimes in Ukraine,” Rutte tweeted.

Kuleba said there were “very positive” signs about bringing perpetrators to justice, citing the ongoing trial 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 press conference with his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra.

Ukraine also “fully supports” the idea of setting up a special tribunal for prosecuting the “crime of aggression” by Russia, a crime that the ICC is not empowered to prosecute, added Kuleba. (Source: CNA)