THE HAGUE – Law enforcement officials from Ukraine, the European Union and the United Sates on Monday opened an international centre to build cases against the Russian leadership for the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities are reviewing more than 93,000 reports of war crimes and have filed charges against 207 suspects in domestic courts.
High-level perpetrators could be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which has already sought the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But due to a gap in international law, there is no court that can currently prosecute the crime of aggression for the Feb 24, 2022, invasion itself.
The new International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression, also in The Hague, will work alongside the ICC, the world's permanent war crimes court, and bridge that legal gap.
The new centre will collect evidence for possible cases against Russian military and political leaders responsible for the war, Ukraine's top prosecutor, Mr Andriy Kostin, said.
“If the crimes of aggression would not have been committed, there would be no other 93,000 incidents of war crimes,” Mr Kostin told journalists. This day “is evidence that the establishment of a special tribunal is now inevitable”.
The US will contribute evidence and is seconding a special prosecutor, Ms jessica Kim, in The Hague.
Ms Kim “will have unfettered access to the substantial body of expertise and resources that the Department has amassed in response to Russia's unlawful war of aggression,” said Assistant Attorney-General Kenneth Polite, referring to the US Department of Justice.
“We are supporting all efforts… to ensure accountability and justice against Russia for perpetrating this war of aggression against Ukraine.”
The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine, but due to legal constraints it does not cover the crime of aggression – launching an unprovoked attack in the first place.