US to help Ukraine and ICC investigate Russia war crimes News
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US to help Ukraine and ICC investigate Russia war crimes

US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) will begin to help Ukraine with its ongoing Russian war crime investigations and assist the International Criminal Court (ICC). This is a major policy reversal, as the Department of Defense (DOD) previously blocked cooperation with the ICC in relation to its case against Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to State Department officials.

During a speech given at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Denver, Garland stated, “Together, American and Ukrainian prosecutors have zeroed in on specific crimes committed by Russian forces, including attacks on civilian targets. We are working to identify not only the individuals who carried out these attacks, but those who ordered them.” Garland continued, saying, “As Secretary of State Blinken recently confirmed, the United States will be cooperating with the ICC’s investigations of foreign nationals arising out of the horrific situation in Ukraine. The Justice Department will be an integral part of that cooperation.”

The statements come as the US Congress has passed legislation carving out a path for increased cooperation with the ICC, despite the US not being a signatory to the Rome Statute, which governs the court. Garland has also appointed an attorney to serve in the Hague at the International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression (ICPA). The center cannot issue indictments or charges but is intended to support other countries as they assist Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with war crimes investigations. The US has also provided Ukraine with monetary assistance and controversial cluster munitions, along with other weaponry.

Human rights groups have cited multiple concerning incidents that may amount to war crimes throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine is also not a signatory to the Rome Statute, so the ICC does not have jurisdiction to prosecute the crime of “aggression.” However, the ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute other war crimes as Ukraine has accepted limited jurisdiction, with the court issuing charges against Putin and investigating potential war crimes in Ukraine. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the EU are also conducting ongoing investigations into Russian actions in Ukraine. Ukraine itself has opened over 50,000 war crime proceedings and is currently investigating more potential war crimes related to the recent Russian grain strikes.