The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) says he is launching a probe “over the events unfolding in Ukraine” following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbor.
“Today I wish to announce that I have decided to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, as rapidly as possible,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement on February 28.
Khan said that the investigation will look at possible war crimes committed both before last week’s invasion by Russia, which in 2014 illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and since the current attack began on February 24.
He said the court already has conducted a preliminary probe into crimes linked to the violent suppression of pro-European protests in Kyiv in 2013-14, as well as allegations of crimes in Crimea following its annexation.
“Given the expansion of the conflict in recent days, it is my intention that this investigation will also encompass any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my office that are committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine,” he said.
“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine” since 2014, he added.
According to rules for the ICC, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands, once a prosecutor has decided to open an investigation, they must either obtain authorization from a pretrial chamber or have a state party to the ICC refer the situation.
Ukraine itself isn’t a party to the Rome Statute that is the founding treaty of the ICC, so it cannot itself refer the case to prosecutors. Russia is a signatory to the treaty.
Khan said he will be calling for additional budgetary and personnel support to pursue the investigation as “the importance and urgency of our mission is too serious to be held hostage to lack of means.”