AG Garland pays surprise visit to Ukraine to lend weight to US behind war crimes prosecution

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Attorney General Merrick Garland is making a surprise visit to Ukraine to weigh America’s weight behind ongoing war crimes trials against the Russian military, the Justice Department revealed on Tuesday.

Ukraine has reportedly opened around 16,000 investigations into alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February. Several nations and international organizations have also launched investigations into alleged Russian crimes.

“Attorney General Merrick Garland is today making an unannounced visit to Ukraine, where he will meet with Ukrainian Attorney General Iryna Venediktova to discuss U.S. and international efforts to help Ukraine identify, apprehend, and prosecute those implicated in crimes of war and other atrocities in Ukraine,” the official said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened its largest-ever investigation into alleged war crimes at the end of May.

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Volunteers load the bodies of civilians killed in Bucha onto a truck to take them to a morgue for investigation, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
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Volunteers load the bodies of civilians killed in Bucha onto a truck to take them to a morgue for investigation, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
(AP)

The ICC is working as part of a joint investigative team alongside Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian prosecutors. The legal arm of the European Union, Eurojust, is also participating in the effort.

The UN Human Rights Council also opened an investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in mid-May.

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The HRC held a special session to respond to Ukraine’s allegations that Russian troops committed atrocities against civilians during their withdrawal from areas surrounding Kyiv. The HRC voted 33 votes to 2 in favor of opening the investigation, with 12 abstentions. China and Eritrea were the only countries to vote against the measure.

Allegations of war crimes arose after the Russian withdrawal from around Kyiv revealed that Bucha, a town in the region, saw Russian troops kill up to 400 citizens and forcing others to dig mass graves.

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The US, UK and other NATO allies have denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal. President Joe Biden called on Putin to face a war crimes trial in early April.

“This guy is brutal. What’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone saw it – I think it’s a war crime,” Biden said at the time, adding that the United States should “get all the details so this can be a real war crimes trial.”

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