Ukraine: what will the office of the International Criminal Court opened in kyiv be used for?

“A crucial step”. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin greeted Thursday on X, formerly Twitter, the opening in kyiv of an office of the International Criminal Court (ICC), “the largest” outside The Hague. “Today marks a crucial step in our journey toward restoring justice,” he wrote. This ICC office should notably make it possible to advance investigations into war crimes in Ukraine of which the Russian authorities are accused.

The opening of this outpost had been recorded since March. “We are very grateful for the cooperation, support and istance we have received from the Government of Ukraine and we look forward to strengthening our cooperation in the future,” ICC Registrar Peter Peters said at the time. Lewis.

As a reminder, the ICC is competent to carry out investigations into “the most serious crimes which affect the entire international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression”. If necessary, it judges the accused persons, those responsible at the highest level for these acts.

Why open an office in kyiv?

If the headquarters of the ICC is located in The Hague (Netherlands), it is possible for it to “sit elsewhere whenever the judges consider it desirable”, specifies the institution’s website. The Court can thus open offices “in areas where it conducts investigations”, as is the case in Ukraine. The ICC also has several other offices around the world like that of Kiev: in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Georgia and Mali.

This detachment takes place “when there is a need to investigate on site” and to be as close as possible to the field, explains to the Parisian Mathilde Philip-Gay, professor of law at the University of Lyon 3, author of “peut- Should we judge Putin? “. “It’s a question of efficiency, better collaboration”, but also the mark that “we are really putting in the resources”.

“To make a decision, we must be closer to the communities,” also recalls the ICC on. “From now on, our cooperation will be even more effective and efficient,” also says Andriy Kostin. “We are doing everything possible so that ICC experts can see with their own eyes the consequences of the attacker’s crimes and draw independent conclusions. »

What does this change?

From May 2022, the ICC had dispatched 42 investigators and forensic experts in Ukraine, “the largest mission in terms of personnel ever deployed on the ground at one time”, noted the International Court at the time. The official creation of an office on site “formalizes this mission”, indicates Mathilde Philip-Gay. This therefore does not change much in substance, but sends a strong signal to Ukraine and prolongs the presence of this international jurisdiction on site.

And if this office opens now, it is not the first action of the ICC in the war in Ukraine. Last March, it issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war crime of “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children, then against its Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. For its part, Ukraine has already convicted Russian soldiers for war crimes.

The difficulty with current and future investigations is that the war in Ukraine is still ongoing. “Crimes are still being committed,” recalls Mathilde Philip-Gay. In this sense, the Ukrainian authorities’ documentation of war crimes “in real time” is “virtually unprecedented in the world”, wrote a UN rapporteur in early September.

According to kyiv, more than 103,000 war crimes prosecutions have already been registered in connection with the conflict in Ukraine. Others should follow.

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