International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan will open an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Politico reports. “I have decided to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine, as rapidly as possible,” Khan said.
The ICC chief prosecutor warned Russia and Ukraine on Friday that any act of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity may fall under the jurisdiction of the court and could therefore be investigated by his office. War crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners of war, torture, sexual violence and pillaging.
Opening an investigation is the next step in an existing probe into hostilities in eastern Ukraine, for which a preliminary probe was concluded at the end of 2020. Khan said the investigation would include the “expansion of the conflict in recent days,” meaning any additional evidence after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that started on Thursday.
Khan had not followed up on the preliminary probe, finalized by his predecessor Fatou Bensouda, citing “constraints on the Office’s operational capacity in light of overextended resources.” Khan said he would be “calling for additional budgetary support, for voluntary contributions to support all our situations, and for the loan of gratis personnel.”
It's not yet clear how many Ukrainian civilians have been killed since Russia launched its deadly full-scale invasion last week, Buzzfeed News reports. Russian forces have attacked by air, land, and sea, sending missiles over major cities, including in residential areas, and threatening the lives of millions.
In a late-night video message on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of committing war crimes, noting that the strikes on Kharkiv amounted to the "deliberate destruction of people."
Khan cited a 2020 report by his office that found there was justification to support the belief that crimes of willful killing, torture, and other violations of the court's statutes were committed during the occupation of Crimea. More than 14,000 people have been killed since the war started in spring 2014.