International Criminal Court’s largest investigation team ever sent to Ukraine

The International Criminal Court will deploy a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts, and support staff to Ukraine to investigate Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“I can confirm that today my Office has deployed a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support personnel to Ukraine to advance our investigations into crimes falling into the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court [...] and provide support to Ukrainian national authorities,” wrote ICC prosecutor Karim Khan in a statement published on the Court’s website. As Mr Khan points out “[t]his represents the largest ever single field deployment by my Office since its establishment.”

Prosecutor Khan thanked the government of the Netherlands for their support in putting together the investigative team, which will in large part consist of Dutch experts. Together with members of the team from other countries, the investigators will engage with the French forensic experts who are already in Ukraine.

“It is my intention to ensure that this collaborative work is then continued through the consistent presence of my Office on the ground,” said Mr Khan, stressing that effective co-ordination and communication are important in establishing the truth. According to him, a large part of the team’s work will consist in “identification of remains, ballistics analysis and the storage and preservation of forensic evidence.”

“Now more than ever we need to show the law in action,” said Prosecutor Khan. In his words “[i]t is essential that we demonstrate to survivors and the families of victims that international law is relevant to their experience, that the ideals of the Rome Statute can be applied meaningfully in order to bring them some measure of solace through the process of justice.”

The Rome Statute, signed in 1998, established four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. According to the Statute, these crimes “shall not be subject to any statute of limitations”, meaning perpetrators can be pursued by justice regardless of how long ago the crimes they are accused of have been committed. Over 120 countries have signed the statue. Russia had signed the Rome Statute, but withdrew its signature in 2016. Ukraine, in turn, has signed the statue, but not ratified it. However Ukrainian authorities have twice already announced that they will accept ICC jurisdiction in investigating crimes perpetrated on its territory, should the ICC decide to get involved.