THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – The International Criminal Court prosecutor said on Friday that a preliminary investigation had found “a reasonable basis at present to believe” that crimes against humanity and crimes of war have been committed in Ukraine and deserve further investigation. .
The six-year preliminary investigation by prosecutors at the world tribunal examined allegations of crimes starting with the brutal crackdown on pro-European protests in 2013-2014, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the conflict extended in eastern Ukraine. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels has killed more than 14,000 people over the past six years.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the alleged crimes and the failure of Ukrainian and Russian courts to successfully prosecute them means that the next step for ICC prosecutors will be to seek permission from the judges to open a formal investigation. She didn’t give a deadline for that to happen.
Ukraine is not a member of the tribunal, but has twice accepted its jurisdiction, asking it first to investigate the crackdown on protesters in 2013-2014 under former President Viktor Yanukovych, and then to extend the jurisdiction over conflicts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Russia is not a member of the Court and does not accept its jurisdiction.
Without going into the details of the alleged crimes, Bensouda said in a statement that his preliminary investigation revealed three “victimization groups”; crimes committed during hostilities, during detentions and crimes committed in Crimea.
“My office further found that these crimes, committed by different parties to the conflict, were also serious enough to warrant investigation by my office, both in quantitative and qualitative terms,” Bensouda said.
The ICC is a court of last resort that takes cases only when member states do not or cannot prosecute them in national courts.
Earlier on Friday, Bensouda, whose term as an ICC prosecutor is coming to an end, said she was also ready to seek permission for a full-scale investigation. in the conflict between Nigerian forces and the extremist group Boko Haram.
She said that with her office strained financially and facing the challenge of working amid the global coronavirus pandemic, “we will need to make several strategic and operational decisions on prioritizing the workload of the Office, which take also duly take into account the legitimate expectations of victims and affected communities as well as other stakeholders.