Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin has called on The Hague to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Speaking on Thursday at a meeting of Eurojust, an EU agency responsible for judicial cooperation in criminal matters between member states, Kostin noted that since last Monday Russia had engaged in “attacks large-scale missiles” against several Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, causing at least 17 deaths and 93 injuries, including many civilians. “It had no military purpose. The objective of Russia’s deliberate attacks is to kill civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure. Coupled with the tactics of intimidation against civilians, it is a classic act of terror prohibited by international law,” Kostin said. As such, the lawyer and politician believes that now “it is time to assess and label the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
His call came a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his mobilization of army reservists to support the war effort in Ukraine would be completed in two weeks. Putin said on Friday that recruitment he ordered last month had so far registered 222,000 of the 300,000 reservists Moscow had set as an initial target.
During the Eurojust meeting, it was announced that Romania would join the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) which exchanges information and facilitates the search for evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity that may have be perpetrated in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion last February. . Romania is the seventh country to join the JIT after Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The JIT was established in March and supports the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to open trials against suspected war criminals.
Kostin said Ukraine intends to ‘investigate and prosecute all crimes committed by Russian forces’ in the country, as well as those perpetrated against its citizens abroad, in reference to prisoners of war being held by Russia and “illegally deported adults”. and minors, especially children. According to Kostin, at least 8,000 children have suffered such a fate, although Ukraine estimates that the real figure “is at least 10 times higher”. The Attorney General added that to date, Kyiv has identified “186 war crimes suspects, the majority of whom are Russian soldiers. Forty-five investigations were referred to judges and there were 10 convictions.
Speaking at the Eurojust meeting, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan stressed once again that war crimes “have no statute of limitations and that the law must be on the side of the most vulnerable”. Khan added that the ICC has maintained a “permanent presence” on the ground in Ukraine since May with the cooperation of several European countries to “ensure that the truth does not become the first victim of war”. Khan added that the ICC remains “firm” in its determination that alleged perpetrators of war crimes be brought to justice, either in Ukraine, a third country, or in an international tribunal.
The war crimes and crimes against humanity charges are not easy to defend, as Khan said the ICC does not work to a set schedule. “Credibility is key and we are making progress, but my office needs to have sufficient evidence before making a formal charge,” he said.
Gabriela Scutea, Romania’s Attorney General, described her country’s membership of the CEE as “a duty and an opportunity to bring perpetrators of crimes to justice; it is our duty to do so as neighbors of Ukraine, because a large number of Ukrainian refugees have fled to our country.
Investigations into war crimes against Russian troops
Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran noted that along with the CEE and Ukraine, 14 member countries of the organization have opened their own investigations into alleged international crimes committed in Ukraine. These are of a different legal nature and require coordination, which will be ensured by Eurojust’s databases. Countries are invited to submit their findings there in order to avoid duplication. Eurojust also provides a guide for NGOs and other civil organizations to cooperate with the initiative.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the Council of Europe to take the initiative to create a special tribunal to investigate war crimes committed by Russian troops. It is the responsibility of the ICC to deal with these crimes, as well as crimes against humanity and genocide, which may have been perpetrated on Ukrainian territory by both sides. Russia does not recognize the ICC and Kyiv has not ratified the Rome Statute, the text that establishes the functions and jurisdiction of the ICC. Ukraine, however, has allowed the ICC to investigate events in the country since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea during an insurgency by Moscow-backed pro-Russian separatists.
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