The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, made the solemn promise, on the occasion of her trip to kyiv on April 8: the European Union (EU) will make available the means at its disposal to ensure that justice rendered in relation to war crimes committed in Ukraine. The head of the European executive was able to see with her own eyes the horrors perpetrated in Boutcha, on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.

→ REPORT. Ukraine: in Boutcha, documenting the horror in the hope of judging war crimes

Force de coordination

On April 25, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders detailed what the EU could do in this regard. It has a powerful tool for judicial cooperation: Eurojust, established ten years ago in The Hague, near the International Criminal Court (ICC). This community body has the power to initiate criminal investigations. It is then up to the States, possibly on a proposal from Eurojust, to initiate proceedings. Brussels intends to extend the mandate of this agency. “Those responsible for war crimes in Ukraine must be held accountable”, confirmed the commissioner.

→ REREAD. What is Eurojust, holder of a brand new anti-terrorist register?

The Commission proposes to amend the institution’s rules so that it can «analyze and preserve evidence relating to core international crimes”. Eurojust will thus be able to process photos, videos, audio recordings or even satellite images, and “share this evidence with the competent national and international authorities, including the International Criminal Court”. An agreement has been signed to this effect with the ICC.

Reinforcement of means

This initiative joins other actions already carried out by Brussels. The EU executive has released 7.5 million euros to support investigations by ensuring massive data collection on missing persons. On April 12, Commissioner Reynders had already invited EU Justice Ministers by letter to respond to the appeal of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Iryna Venediktova.

The needs expressed concern both human resources (investigators, forensic experts, trainers) and technological resources (storage and securing of evidence, secure lines of communication). Eurojust, which hosts the “Genocide Network”, made up of dedicated experts, has thus begun to support the Ukrainian judicial authorities in compiling cases for war crimes.

Focal point

To date, 11 EU Member States (including Germany, Spain, Lithuania, Poland or Sweden) have seized their universal jurisdiction to investigate and instruct. The centralization of evidence by Eurojust has several advantages, according to Brussels. Investigators will have access to data from other countries. And duplicates will be avoided in this tedious investigation work. The refugees, who will only be heard once, will not have to repeat their painful testimony.

Eurojust will also have access to the exhibits collected via the online portal “Russian war crimes”, created by the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office. The population can record elements there. Since 2018, Ukraine has had a liaison prosecutor in the agency. The amount of data to be processed is colossal. “More than 8,000 cases” suspects of war crimes, attributed to soldiers or politicians, have been identified since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, according to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. To be adopted, the extension of Eurojust’s powers still needs to be negotiated between the European Parliament and the Member States.


Evacuations of civilians in Mariupol

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Sunday 1is May, that about a hundred civilians, including women and children, had been evacuated over the weekend from the territory of the Azovstal factory in Mariupol, a port in south-eastern Ukraine which had been besieged for several weeks by the Russians . In a video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense, we see a convoy of cars and buses driving in the dark, adorned with the letter « Z »which became the symbol of the Russian armed forces in this conflict.

In addition, the Russian Ministry of Defense has indicated that “near Odessa, Onyx high-precision missiles destroyed a hangar at a military airfield with weapons and ammunition received from the United States and European countries, and also destroyed the runway”.

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