I.C.C. Prosecutor Fast-Tracks War Crimes Investigation in Ukraine

I.C.C. Prosecutor Fast-Tracks War Crimes Investigation in Ukraine

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has launched an immediate criminal investigation of possible war crimes in Ukraine.

The prosecutor, Karim Khan, said late Wednesday that he would fast-track the investigation after receiving requests from 39 member countries, most of them European. Such a move is unprecedented at the court, where prosecutors typically wait months for approval from a panel of judges.

More than 120 countries signed the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, which is the only permanent international court designed to address genocide, wars of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The United States is not a member of the court.

“I have notified the I.C.C. presidency a few moments ago of my decision to immediately proceed with active investigations in the situation,” Mr. Khan said in a statement. “Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced.”

The traditional path for an International Criminal Court investigation involves sending teams to the locations of the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, interviewing witnesses and collecting documentary evidence. Ukraine is not a member of the International Criminal Court but granted it jurisdiction before the war. Investigations can take many months.

Mr. Khan’s statement did not specifically mention Russia. He said the investigation would encompass “any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person.”

According to the court’s statute, cases can be brought against not only those committing crimes, but also those ordering or condoning the crimes. This could in theory lead to charges against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Russia, like the United States, is not a member of the court, so it has no legal duty to turn over its people for prosecution. But the court can issue international arrest warrants obliging members to arrest suspects who have been indicted by the court.

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