Prosecutor for International Criminal Court announces investigation into war crimes regarding events unfolding in Ukraine

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

Like many around the world, Karim A.A. Khan QC, the prosecutor for the world’s International Criminal Court (ICC), watched with deep apprehension as Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

On Friday, Khan publicly expressed his “increasing concern,” about what he was seeing.

By Monday, February 28, however, the prosecutor decided he needed to step off the sidelines in order to do what he and the court had the unique power to do.

“Today, I wish to announce that I have decided to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, as rapidly as possible.”

By “an investigation,” Kahn was specifically referring to both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity that may have have been committed in Ukraine in relation to “the expansion of the conflict in recent days.”

Khan said in his statement that he had already told his team to do all they could to ensure the “preservation of evidence, pertaining to possible war crimes.”

According to Khan, there is a formal way of going about getting authorization for the investigation, which he bypassed, he said, given the speed with which the critical events are unfolding.

Instead, Khan said, he used an alternate route set out in the statute that governs the ICC in order to expedite matters, which would be for one of the ICC member states to formally refer the situation to his office. Since multiple states wished to make the referral, it allowed Khan and the ICC to “actively and immediately proceed with the Office’s independent and objective investigations.”

Meanwhile, Kahn has called for restraint and strict adherence to the “applicable rules” of international law.

“Truth is the first casualty of war…” the prosecutor told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday in reference to his newly launched investigation of Russia’s invasion. “We need to resuscitate the truth. We are united by elemental considerations of humanity that really must bind us together.”

Kahn has also asked for the support of the international community, which includes a call for additional budgetary support, and the loan of personnel as the ICC office begins to ramp up its work.

“The importance and urgency of our mission is too serious to be held hostage to lack of means.”

After his announcement, Kahn repeated a call for restraint and strict adherence to the applicable rules of international humanitarian law. 

“We know very clearly that if civilians are directly targeted, if civilian residences or locations are targeted, that is a crime.” This also includes the use of weapons that may not specifically target civilians, but “that have a large footprint in very heavily populated civilian areas,”

Karim A. A. Khan QC, who is a member of the English Bar, is among the world’s primary experts in international criminal law and human rights law, having appeared in such venues as the International Criminal Court, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He has also appeared as counsel before the International Court of Justice and was elected as the second President of the ICC Bar Association in July 2017

If anyone has information relevant to the situation, Kahn asks that they contact his office via: otp.informationdesk@icc-cpi.int.

1 Comment

  • Yayyyyyy, thank you for checking to see if a wrong has been done. Perhaps there has been, perhaps not. I do not know, but the fact is, you are checking the laws and that deserves a warm thank you not only from my heart but probably from the hearts of many who respect your position, power, judgment and overall concern for humankind.

    Thank you Dearly

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