Since 24 February 2022, many GAAMAC community members – NGOs and States alike – have echoed international indignation and condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. A few weeks into the conflict, several States sitting at GAAMAC’s Steering Group have led the multilateral effort to investigate alleged international crimes.
Referral to the International Criminal Court
On 2 March, 40 State parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) referred the situation in Ukraine to the Office of the Prosecutor. Among them were Steering Group members Costa Rica, Demark and Switzerland, as well as The Netherlands, a partner State. The next day, the Prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced he had opened an investigation.
Additionally, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pledged an extraordinary contribution of 100,000 USD to an ICC special fund on Ukraine.
Neither Ukraine nor Russia are members of the ICC, but Ukraine has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court.
Other avenues for accountability
On 4 March 2022, the UN Human Rights Council established a Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, supported by GAAMAC Chair, Argentina.
In an in-depth Q&A, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs also stressed that the ICC was not the sole avenue for accountability. While reiterating its collaboration to the ICC investigation, it reminded that each State was “responsible for investigating and prosecuting alleged war crimes in keeping with international standards.” It also expressed its support to the OSCE Moscow Mechanism to gather evidence of war crimes and other grave human rights violations.
Demark, on its side, launched a Group of Friends of Accountability on 25 March. The platform, initiated with five other States, was joined by 45 more States within weeks. Its goal is “to ensure coordination, synergies and broad international support for initiatives (…) to document and prosecute crimes following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”
GAAMAC had warned in the conflict’s early days that the risk of mass atrocities was very real. While it is regrettable that alleged crimes in Bucha and elsewhere were not avoided altogether, making perpetrators accountable is now of paramount importance to deter additional commissions, in Ukraine and elsewhere.