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German prosecutors receive evidence regarding ‘Russian war crimes in Ukraine’

Clooney Foundation for Justice calls on German prosecutors to investigate Russia’s ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine

Maroosha Muzaffar
Friday 27 October 2023 08:42 BST
Related: Aftermath of Russian missile strike on Ukraine mail depot that killed six

A non-governmental organisation founded by Amal and George Clooney handed over dossiers of evidence regarding Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine to German federal prosecutors on Thursday.

At least three cases were filed by the Clooney Foundation for Justice (CFJ) which called on the German prosecutors to investigate Russia’s actions since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

CFJ said in a statement: “The organisation submitted detailed dossiers against the perpetrators and is representing 16 survivors and families of victims.” One of the cases was filed jointly with CFJ’s partner, the Ukrainian NGO Truth Hounds.

The foundation by barrister Amal Clooney and her actor husband George Clooney advocates for justice through accountability for human rights abuses around the world.

The CFJ clarified that it submitted its plea in Germany due to the country’s application of “absolute universal jurisdiction”. German law allows the initiation of criminal investigations for international crimes committed outside of Germany, irrespective of the victims’ or perpetrators’ nationality or any other association with Germany.

“International commitment around accountability for crimes committed in Ukraine has been unprecedented since the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” said Anya Neistat, legal director of The Docket – a CJF initiative to collect evidence and build war crimes cases.

“But it is now the time to see words turn into real action – and we are counting on German prosecutors to lead the way.”

The CFJ said all three cases were filed “against high and mid-level commanders whom the Docket identified as likely suspects”.

“The first case concerns an indiscriminate missile attack on a resort in the Odessa region, which in the summer of 2022 killed 22 civilians and seriously injured 40 more. The Docket is representing 11 families of victims and survivors,” the statement said.

The second case is focused on the commanders of Russian ground forces who “unlawfully detained, tortured, and executed four men in the Kharkiv region during their occupation of the area from March to September 2022”.

The third case identified the commanders of Russian units “involved in a pattern of crimes, including executions, torture, sexual violence, looting and other violations committed during the occupation in the Kyiv region in March 2022”.

“While Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are doing their best to cover the unprecedented scale of war crimes committed in the country, they are overloaded and have limited options under Ukrainian law for pursuing the commanders and masterminds of the crimes,” Maryna Slobodianiuk, the head of Investigations Department of Truth Hounds, said.

“We believe that by opening these proceedings, Germany can significantly contribute to the efforts of ensuring justice for all Ukrainian survivors”.

“We represent survivors of torture, as well as families of people who had been executed or killed in indiscriminate attacks,” said Ms Neistat. “These Ukrainian civilians have suffered unthinkable violence, but now they are no longer victims – they chose to fight for justice, and we will be with them every step of the way.”

The International Criminal Court [ICC] has also issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin on charges of war crimes in Ukraine, a move that Moscow dismissed as “meaningless” earlier this year.

The Hague-based court said in a statement in March this year: “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility” for the child abductions “for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (and) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”

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