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Putin - War Criminal

A child looks on near a sign labeling Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal during a protest against the invasion of Ukraine on February 28, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

ICC to Launch Probe of Russian War Crimes in Ukraine

"I will continue to closely follow developments on the ground in Ukraine, and again call for restraint and strict adherence to the applicable rules of international humanitarian law," said the court's prosecutor.

Jessica Corbett

Amid growing outrage over alleged war crimes by the Russian forces engaged in an air and ground assault of Ukraine, an international prosecutor announced Monday that he intends to launch an investigation.

"I have decided to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, as rapidly as possible," Karim A.A. Khan of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said in a statement, after reviewing his office's initial findings.

"I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine in relation to the events already assessed during the preliminary examination by the office," he continued. "Given the expansion of the conflict in recent days, it is my intention that this investigation will also encompass any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my office that are committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine."

"I will continue to closely follow developments on the ground in Ukraine, and again call for restraint and strict adherence to the applicable rules of international humanitarian law," the prosecutor added.

Although neither Ukraine nor Russia is a state party to the Rome Statute of ICC, a 2015 declaration allows for the court to investigate some crimes committed in Ukraine.

The Associated Press noted Monday that the Hague-based court "already has conducted a preliminary probe into crimes linked to the violent suppression of pro-European protests in Kyiv in 2013-2014 by a pro-Russian Ukrainian administration and allegations of crimes in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and eastern Ukraine, where Russia has backed rebels since 2014."

As Khan explained:

The next step is to proceed with the process of seeking and obtaining authorization from the pre-trial chamber of the court to open an investigation. An alternative route set out in the statute that could further expedite matters would be for an ICC state party to refer the situation to my office, which would allow us to actively and immediately proceed with the office's independent and objective investigations. I will also be asking for the support of all states parties and the international community as a whole as my office sets about its investigations. I will be calling for additional budgetary support, for voluntary contributions to support all our situations, and for the loan of gratis personnel.

Demands for an ICC probe have mounted since the invasion. Russian forces have been accused of using cluster munitions—which are widely banned—as well as "indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas," as Amnesty International put it late last week.

"The Russian military has shown a blatant disregard for civilian lives by using ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely populated areas," said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty's secretary general. "Some of these attacks may be war crimes."

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