The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says he wants to open an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Prosecutor Karim Khan said that an investigation would be opened “as rapidly as possible” looking at alleged crimes committed before and after the Russian invasion.
Mr Khan said: “Given the expansion of the conflict in recent days, it is my intention that this investigation will also encompass any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my office that are committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine.”
Russia and Ukraine are not among the court’s 123 member states but Ukraine has accepted its jurisdiction, which means Mr Khan can investigate.
The next step is seeking authorisation from the court’s judges but, meanwhile, Mr Khan said his team has been told to look at the preservation of evidence.
He will also seek financial support from member states to fund the investigation, adding: “The importance and urgency of our mission is too serious to be held hostage to lack of means”.
The court has previously looked into crimes linked to the violent suppression of pro-European protests in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in 2013-14; and allegations of crimes in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014; and eastern Ukraine, where Russia has backed separatists since 2014.
Fatou Bensouda, who was prosecutor at the time, said in December 2020 that there had been a “broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
But prosecutors had not yet asked judges for permission to start a full investigation.
Mr Khan said he wanted to do this, and widen it to include crimes committed since the invasion.
According to United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, 102 civilians – including seven children – have been killed in the invasion, with 304 injured.
But she said these numbers were likely a vast undercount.