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Eurojust to probe into war crimes in Ukraine

More than 70,000 alleged war crimes have been reported in Ukraine since Russia invaded, but bringing them to trial is no simple task. The European Union recently announced the creation of an international center for the prosecution of “aggression” in Ukraine, which is under the European prosecuting authority Eurojust, also in The Hague. This could eventually form the basis of a new tribunal. The Associated Press has the story:

Eurojust to probe into war crimes in Ukraine

Newslooks- THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP)

The European Union’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust, is setting up a new center to support efforts to gather evidence of the crime of aggression in Ukraine.

The announcement Thursday by Eurojust came on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and amid international calls for accountability for crimes in Ukraine and the prosecution of the crime of aggression by Russia’s leaders.

Pressure is mounting for the establishment of a special tribunal to try Russia’s leaders for the crime of aggression — the illegal invasion of one country by another.

“It is Ukraine’s firm belief that the accountability efforts should also include the prosecution of the leadership of the Russian Federation for the crime of aggression,” said Ukraine’s representative to Eurojust Myroslava Krasnoborova. “The impunity for this supreme international crime should never be accepted.”

The new International Center for Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression, which should be operational by the summer, will “support and enhance investigations into the crime of aggression by securing key evidence and facilitating case building at the earliest possible stage,” Eurojust said in a statement.

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in his annual televised New Year’s message after an awards ceremony during a visit to the headquarters of the Southern Military District, at an unknown location in Russia, on Dec. 31, 2022. The Kremlin insists that any political settlement must include the recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and the acceptance of other Russian territorial gains, conditions that Ukraine has rejected. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

It remains unclear when and where a prosecution for aggression could happen. The International Criminal Court, which is investigating in Ukraine, does not have jurisdiction. Krasnoborova said “all options are on the table” for a possible venue.

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, on Wednesday called on the United Nations to set up an aggression tribunal.

She is not alone. The European Union’s legislature passed a non-binding resolution in January calling on the 27-nation bloc to work “in close cooperation with Ukraine to seek and build political support in the U.N. General Assembly and other international forums … for creating the special tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.”

Amid the international efforts to ensure accountability, Ukrainian prosecutors are working on thousands of cases in their country.

FILE – Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery at Russian positions near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, on Nov. 20, 2022. Russia and Ukraine both hope to turn the tide of the war with big offensives after. (AP Photo/LIBKOS, File)

Krasnoborova said Ukrainian authorities already are investigating the crime of aggression and Ukrainian prosecutors have registered more than 71,000 alleged war crimes since the war began. She said 99 cases have been sent to courts and 26 verdicts have been reached.

Eurojust also said Thursday that it has formally opened a digital database for evidence of war crimes and other atrocities committed in Ukraine.

“This database is a real game changer in the prosecution of international crimes,” Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran said.

Eurojust already is facilitating the work of a Joint Investigation Team made up of prosecutors from seven nations including Ukraine that also cooperates with the International Criminal Court prosecution office, which opened its own investigation in Ukraine almost a year ago.

The investigation team’s efforts in The Hague are part of a broader hunt across Europe for accountability for war crimes in Ukraine. Prosecutors in Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, France, Slovakia, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland have opened investigations of their own.

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