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International Center Opens to Help Hold Russian Leadership Accountable for Aggression in Ukraine

An international center opened Monday in The Hague to support nations already building cases against senior Russian leaders for the crime of aggression resulting from the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine is the latest step in concerted worldwide efforts to hold the Russian leadership criminally responsible for its war against Ukraine last year, triggering Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

The center is based at the headquarters of the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust. It will not issue indictments or arrest warrants for suspects. Instead, it will support investigations already underway in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said in a statement that the launch was “a clear signal that the world is united and unwavering on the path to holding the Russian regime accountable for all its crimes.”

He added that there is “unfortunately, a gaping hole in accountability for the crime of aggression in the international criminal justice architecture.”

The European Union’s executive commission is funding the initiative and agreed Monday to an initial 8.3 million euros ($9 million) in financial support.

The International Criminal Court is investigating crimes in Ukraine and has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin accusing him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, welcomed the opening, saying there is no hope for accountability “unless evidence is preserved, unless it is collected, unless it is well understood.”

The ICC does not have jurisdiction to prosecute aggression in Ukraine because Russia and Ukraine have not ratified the Rome Statute that founded the court.

Kostin said Kyiv plans to join the court’s 123 member states.

“I hope that it will be ratified sooner than later and practically,” he said, “our country is ready to do it. The only question is when the parliament will be ready to vote,” he said.

The United States also is not an ICC member state but is supporting international efforts to deliver justice in Ukraine. A newly appointed Special Prosecutor for the Crime of Aggression, Jessica Kim, will represent the US at the new center in The Hague.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. told reporters that Washington last week provided the first batch of evidence to an international database of crimes in Ukraine.

“It will not be our last,” he added. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the evidence.

Kostin said that Ukrainian prosecutors already have identified more than 600 people — in absentia — suspected of involvement in the crime of aggression and indicted 312 of them.

While countries around the world are working together to build cases, it remains unclear where they would be prosecuted. Ukraine is pushing for the establishment of an international tribunal, while others, including the United States, support a court rooted in Ukraine’s legal system but with some elements of international law.

Despite those differences, Kostin said the nations involved in the new center are united in their efforts to deliver justice for aggression.

“If the crime of aggression would not have been committed. There would be no other 93,000 incidents of war crimes,” he said.

Source : AP News