ICC launches war crimes probe as Russia attacks Ukraine

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The International Criminal Court is investigating Russia for possible war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine and the conflict resulting from its annexation of Crimea eight years ago, the court’s attorney general announced on Monday.

Karim AA Khan, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, said his office would continue its investigation “as soon as possible”, noting that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in Ukraine”. since the Russian invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014.

He quoted a 2020 report by his office which concluded that it was justified to support the conviction that crimes of intentional homicide, torture and other violations of the statutes of the court had been committed during the occupation of Crimea. More than 14,000 people have been killed since the war began in spring 2014.

“Given the expansion of the conflict in recent days, I intend that this investigation also encompass all new alleged crimes within the jurisdiction of my Office that are committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine,” Khan said in A declaration.

It’s not clear yet how many Ukrainian civilians were killed since Russia launched its deadly full-scale invasion of the country last week. Russian forces attacked by air, land and sea, sending missiles over major cities across the country, including residential areas, and threatening the lives of millions. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled the country, while those who remained sought refuge in bomb shelters and subway systems or took up arms to help defend their country. On Saturday, Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko said in A declaration on Facebook that at least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, had been killed and more than a thousand others injured.

Igor Terekhov, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, said four people were killed when they left bomb shelters to fetch water and a family of five, including three children, had been killed. burned alive after a shell hit their car, The New York Times reported.

“Today has shown that this is not just a war, this is our murder, the people of Ukraine,” Terekhov said, according to The Times. “This is the first time in its many years of history that the city of Kharkiv has seen something like this – shells hitting residential houses, killing and maiming innocent citizens.”

In a late-night video message Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia to commit war crimes, noting that the strikes on Kharkiv amounted to the “deliberate destruction of people”.

“Kharkiv is a peaceful city, there are peaceful residential areas, no military installations,” Zelensky said, adding that “the Russians knew where they were shooting.”

As intense fighting raged in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Monday urged residents to spend the night in bomb shelters, saying: “Tonight will be difficult again,” said the Times. reported.

Ukraine is not a party to the convention that established the ICC, which is tasked with prosecuting crimes such as genocide that individual governments cannot or will not, so it cannot refer events at the office itself, Khan explained. However, the country has previously accepted the court’s jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on Ukrainian lands since November 2013.

Khan said on Monday he would also ask parties to the convention and the international community at large to help fund his office’s investigations.

“The importance and urgency of our mission is too serious to be held hostage by the lack of means,” he said, adding that he would continue to “closely follow developments on the ground in Ukraine , and would again call for restraint and strict respect for the applicable rules of international humanitarian law”.

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