Canada will petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by Russian forces in Ukraine, its Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said.
The office of the ICC prosecutor on Monday said it will seek court approval to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine, just days after Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.
Joly, speaking to reporters in Geneva after taking part in a walk-out of a virtual speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the U.N. Human Rights Council, said: “Today also Canada will petition the International Criminal Court … against Russia for crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“It was also important for us to show that we are steadfast in terms of our support to Ukraine,” she added.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, rights groups have alleged violations of international war crimes law, including the targeting of civilians, as well as indiscriminate attacks on schools and hospitals.
Ukraine and its allies on Monday called for a United Nations inquiry into possible war crimes committed by Russia during its military actions in Ukraine.
The United Nations Human Rights Council voted on Monday to accept Ukraine’s request to hold an urgent debate on Thursday on Russia’s invasion. A Ukrainian draft resolution will be considered at the urgent debate.
Prosecutor Khan said his office would seek support and funding from the ICC’s 123 member states for investigations.
“The importance and urgency of our mission is too serious to be held hostage to lack of means”, he said.
Khan said the investigation will look into alleged violations dating back to 2014, when Ukraine recognized the court’s jurisdiction following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Although neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the court in The Hague, Ukraine gave it authorization over war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“There is a reasonable basis to proceed with opening an investigation,” the statement said. “In particular, I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine.”
“Given the expansion of the conflict in recent days, it is my intention that this investigation will also encompass any new alleged crimes falling within the jurisdiction of my Office that are committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine,” it said.
The prosecutor will have to first obtain authorization from a pre-trial chamber of the court.