Ukraine Seeks Justice for Russian War Crimes & Crimes against Humanity
Citing an International Criminal Court report that confirms the existence of sufficient evidence that Russia has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in its nearly eight-year war in Ukraine, Kyiv is pressing for a full investigation into Moscow’s violations of international law.
“The Prosecutor’s report clearly states that there are sufficient grounds to believe that the crimes committed in both Crimea and Donbas fall within the Court’s jurisdiction. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity. Among them is a significant number of crimes against civilians.” Yuriy Vitrenko of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine said this week in the United Nations.
In 2014, Russia seized and illegally occupied the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and two eastern oblasts of Luhansk and Donetsk, ultimately renaming the latter two as the Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples Republics. Human rights violations have been committed by Russia and its foreign mercenaries in all three regions and have been condemned by the United Nations and other international organizations. In Crimea, Russia has forbidden Crimean Tatars from fostering their ancestral culture and religion and have suffered death and arrests for violating Moscow’s draconian laws. More than 14,000 people have been killed during the war that has resulted in more than 1 million refugees.
For example, in February to July of this year, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found: “The number of ceasefire violations in the conflict zone considerably increased compared with the preceding six months, resulting in increased civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects. OHCHR documented 62 civilian casualties occurring in the reporting period, a total of 15 people killed (11 men, three boys and one girl), and 47 injured (30 men, 13 women, three boys and one girl), representing a 51 percent increase compared with the preceding six months. Thirteen civilian casualties resulted from active hostilities, two while 47 resulted from mine-related incidents3 and handling of explosive remnants of war. In addition, one man was also killed in a security incident and one woman was beaten by a soldier. Residents in the conflict zone complained about psychological distress due to the resumption of hostilities after a prolonged period of relative silence. The availability of weapons also resulted in grave incidents of domestic violence affecting women and children.
Vitrenko said in his address that Ukraine has met the criteria to have such an investigation opened and is “seeking judicial authorization to open such an investigation.”
Vitrenko pointed out that the declarations regarding these crimes have been made for an indefinite duration and “the ICC will be able to exercise its jurisdiction over such crimes regardless of the nationality of persons who have committed them, even if they were citizens of the third states.”
According to Vitrenko, “Ukrainian law enforcement agencies in cooperation with civil society organizations and human rights defenders continued to document and provide the Court with additional information, facts and evidences related both to the nature of existing armed conflict in Ukraine as international armed conflict caused by a foreign armed aggression as well as to numerous war crimes committed by the aggressor-state armed forces, its occupation authorities, its personnel and proxies in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.”
He concluded, “The demand of the people of Ukraine for justice, prosecution and holding to account all perpetrators of grave crimes committed in Ukraine remains unwavering, just as Ukraine’s government support of the work of the ICC.”