Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Statement by Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC on the issuance of arrest warrants in the Situation in Ukraine

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On 2 February 2024, I submitted applications to Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court for warrants of arrest in the context of the Situation in Ukraine.

Today, two years after my Office opened an investigation, and one year following the issuance of the warrants against Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Pre-Trial Chamber has issued additional arrest warrants in relation to the following two individuals:

  • Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash, a Lieutenant General in the Russian Armed Forces who at the relevant time was Commander of the Long-Range Aviation of the Aerospace Force;
  • Viktor Nikolayevich Sokolov, an Admiral in the Russian Navy, who at the relevant time was Commander of the Black Sea Fleet.

On the basis of evidence collected and analysed by my Office pursuant to its independent investigations, the Pre-Trial Chamber has confirmed that there are reasonable grounds to believe that General Kobylash and Admiral Sokolov bear individual criminal responsibility for the following three crimes: 1) the war crime of directing attacks against civilian objects (article 8(2)(b)(ii) of the Rome Statute); 2) the war crime of causing excessive incidental harm to civilians or damage to civilian objects (article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute); and 3) the crime against humanity of inhumane acts under article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute.

In our application, my Office submitted that these individuals bear responsibility for attacks on critical infrastructure in Ukraine, including strikes against power plants and sub-stations, from 10 October 2022 until at least 9 March 2023. My Office presented evidence that these strikes were directed against civilian objects, and for those installations that may have qualified as military objectives at the relevant time, the expected incidental civilian harm and damage would have been clearly excessive to the anticipated military advantage.

After reviewing the evidence submitted, the Pre-Trial Chamber has determined that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the alleged campaign by the Russian Armed Forces during this period represents a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts against a civilian population, pursuant to a State policy, within the meaning of Article 7 of the Statute, establishing the basis for the finding that they may represent a crime against humanity under article 7(1)(k) of the Statute.

The Pre-Trial Chamber has also found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that these commanders are criminally responsible for committing these crimes jointly or through others, for ordering their commission, and/or for failing to exercise proper control over their subordinates who carried out the crimes.

In our application for these warrants, my Office again underlined that these acts were carried out in the context of the acts of aggression committed by Russian military forces against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine which began in 2014.

I have repeatedly emphasised that those responsible for actions that impact innocent civilians or protected objects must know that this conduct is bound by a set of rules reflected in international humanitarian law. All wars have rules. Those rules bind all without exception.  As I have made clear, these laws cannot be interpreted so as to render them devoid of meaning. This applies to the Situation in Ukraine and applies with equal vigour in all Situations for which my Office has jurisdiction.

I am grateful for the support of many partners of the Office that have allowed us to move forward in the collection of evidence in relation to this work. I wish to express my thanks in particular to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine whose engagement has been essential in supporting the work my Office has carried out, including on the ground in Ukraine.

I will also continue to seek cooperation from the Russian Federation in relation to the Situation in Ukraine, and ensure my Office fully meets its responsibility pursuant to article 54 of the Rome Statute to investigate incriminating and exonerating circumstances equally.

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