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War crimes tribunal being established to investigate Russian atrocities

Ukraine will establish a tribunal to prosecute those responsible for war crimes perpetrated by Russian troops; an effort to create an international investigation team is gathering momentum.

On Monday, April 25, Andriy Smyrnov, the Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, announced during a briefing that Ukraine is preparing a legal framework and drafting statutory documents to launch a special tribunal to investigate the crimes perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine during the invasion.

“Currently, consultations are being held with partner states and international organisations, and the optimal format for the establishment and operation of the tribunal is being determined,” said Smyrnov. He also noted that the idea of establishing a special tribunal has the support not only of international leaders, but also hundreds of intellectuals worldwide, leading international lawyers and public figures who have signed a statement on the need to establish it.

The Office of the President of Ukraine, in cooperation with pre-trial investigation bodies, intelligence agencies and the Ministry of Digital Transformation, are working on a “Book of Executioners”, gathering information about Russian soldiers involved in perpetrating war crimes. “A huge amount of information is being researched and verified, which will later be available to our citizens and the entire civilised world,” said Mr. Smyrnov.

According to information from Kyiv Regional Police Chief Andriy Nebytov, 1,084 bodies of civilians murdered by Russian invasion forces have been recovered within his jurisdiction as of April 19. A further 300 remained unidentified.

International investigation

On the same day as the announcement made by Andriy Smyrnov, the Polish Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General, Zbigniew Ziobro, said during a press conference that an international effort will be needed to ensure that those guilty of the atrocities in Ukraine face justice. Ziobro believes that other countries joining the investigation would be more than just a symbolic gesture, showing their condemnation of Russian war crimes: it would allow the international community to pool its forensic resources and expertise.

Minister Ziobro also announced that Karim Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, will be joining the investigation into Russian war crimes.

Minister Ziobro recalled that the Polish Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova requested that Poland open its own investigation and gather statements from Ukrainian refugees who have witnessed Russian atrocities. About 1,000 have already given their testimonies.

On March 25, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania established an international team of investigators. Back then the three countries were already appealing for other countries to join the investigation, but to no avail. However, around the same time Minister Ziobro was addressing the press, Spanish Minister of Justice Pilar Llop announced her country will join the investigation. Spain will dispatch 29 forensic medicine experts and 10 patomorphologists. The Spanish Ministry of Interior will also join the effort and send police forensic investigators.

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