ICC Prosecutor Concludes Six-Year Probe Into War Crimes Committed by Russia in Ukraine

Canan Kevser
14 December 2020, 12:15
Canan Kevser
14 December 2020, 12:15

A prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday pushed for a full investigation into the war crimes committed in Ukraine since 2014.

A six-year preliminary probe looked into allegations of war crimes during the pro-European Union protests in 2013-14, the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“After a thorough and independent process, I can announce today that the established criteria for starting an investigation of the situation in Ukraine have been met,” chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement on Friday, 11 December 2020.

“Specifically, and without prejudice to any other crimes which may be identified during the course of an investigation, my Office has concluded that there is a reasonable basis at this time to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed in the context of the situation in Ukraine,” the statement reads.

These findings, according to her, which will be spelled out in more detail in our annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities, include three broad clusters of victimisation:

  • crimes committed in the context of the conduct of hostilities
  • crimes committed during detentions
  • crimes committed in Crimea

“My Office furthermore found that these crimes, committed by the different parties to the conflict, were also sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by my Office, both in quantitative and qualitative terms,” Bensouda said.

She reminded that the preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine was opened on 24 April 2014 on the basis of an initial ad hoc declaration lodged by the Government of Ukraine accepting the jurisdiction of the Court, which was subsequently extended by a second declaration by Ukraine, lodged in 2015, to encompass ongoing alleged crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine from 20 February 2014 onwards.

Next Step is to Open Investigations

Having examined the information available, despite the existence of information on domestic proceedings, the Office has concluded that the potential cases that would likely arise from an investigation into the situation in Ukraine would be admissible.

According to the Office, this is because the competent authorities in Ukraine and/or the Russian Federation are either inactive in relation to the categories of persons and conduct that the Office has identified, or because the national judicial system is ‘unavailable’ in territory under the control of the opposing party, rendering the competent authorities unable genuinely to obtain the accused or the necessary evidence and testimony or otherwise to carry out their proceedings.

The statement declares that the next step will be to request authorisation from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations.

As a reminder, Ukraine is not a member of the ICC, but has accepted the court’s jurisdiction into the conflicts of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russia is not a member of the ICC, and does not accept its jurisdiction.