US launches program to gather evidence of Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine as World Court sends investigators

London — The US State Department announced Tuesday it was launching a new program to store, analyze and share open source evidence of suspicious Russian war crimes in Ukraine, “for use in ongoing and future accountability mechanisms.”

The new program, dubbed the “Conflict Observatory,” will “enforce rigorous chain-of-custody procedures for future civil and criminal legal processes under appropriate jurisdictions,” the State Department said.

The announcement came as the International Criminal Court deployed its “largest ever” team of investigators, forensic experts and support staff to gather evidence and help coordinate activities surrounding war crimes investigations in Ukraine

“Through the deployment of a team of investigators, we will further expand lead development and collect testimony relevant to military strikes that could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement, referring to the treaty with which the court and outlines its function. He said his team would work with Ukrainian authorities and others on the ground to coordinate efforts and strengthen the chain of custody for evidence.

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“It is essential that the work of all actors seeking to support accountability efforts in Ukraine benefits from effective coordination and communication. By doing so, we will significantly amplify the impact of our collective work in establishing the truth said Khan.

Ukraine’s first prosecution for suspected war crimes since the invasion officially began on Wednesday. Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin appeared in court and pleaded guilty to shooting a 62-year-old man on a bicycle four days after the war started, in a town about 200 miles east of Kiev. When asked whether he was guilty of war crimes and first-degree murder, the 21-year-old sergeant replied: “Yes.”

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, released a report outlining alleged evidence of summary executions and torture by Russian troops in the occupied areas around Kiev and Chernihiv during the early days of the invasion.

“The numerous atrocities committed by Russian forces occupying parts of northeastern Ukraine early in the war are abhorrent, illegal and brutal,” Giorgi Gogia, Associated Director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “These violations of civilians are clear war crimes that must be promptly and impartially investigated and prosecuted appropriately.”

In early April, CBS News correspondent Debora Patta and her team visited the Kiev suburb of Bucha to see the evidence for yourself of murders there that Russia has dismissed as ‘fake’.

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Four days after Russia’s invasion of the country in February, the ICC announced its investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. Neither Russia nor Ukraine is a state party to the Rome Statute, and Russia does not recognize the court. However, as of 2014, Ukraine has accepted the jurisdiction of the court for crimes committed on its territory.

Khan, the prosecutor of the ICC, visited Ukraine in April where he witnessed the aftermath of the atrocities in Bucha, calling the entire country “a crime scene.”

“Now more than ever we need to show the law in action,” Khan said on Tuesday. “It is essential that we show survivors and the families of victims that international law is relevant to their experience, that the ideals of the Rome Statute can be meaningfully applied to provide them with some measure of comfort through the process of justice.” .”

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