Canada to petition ICC to investigate alleged Russian war crimes

An International Criminal Court prosecutor this week announced plans to open a probe into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Canadian FM Melanie Joly speaks at a podium
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly says it is important for Canada to show it is 'steadfast' in its support for Ukraine amid Russia's invasion [File: Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via Reuters]

Canada will petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate potential war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, the Canadian foreign minister has said.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva after taking part in a walkout of a virtual speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Melanie Joly said Canada on Tuesday would petition the ICC “against Russia for crimes against humanity and war crimes”.

“And it was also important for us to show that we are steadfast in terms of our support to Ukraine,” Joly said.

Canada has joined the United States and other international allies in imposing a slew of economic sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which has seen Russian forces ramp up their attacks on the second-largest Ukrainian city, Kharkiv, and press towards the capital, Kyiv.

The UN’s official court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced Tuesday it would hold hearings March 7-8 on Ukrainian allegations of genocide in the conflict.

Ukraine on Sunday filed suit at the ICJ, which handles disputes between countries.

The ICC prosecutes individuals.

UN agencies launched an emergency appeal to respond to soaring humanitarian needs linked to the Russian assault, urgently requesting $1.7bn to help people who have fled Ukraine and those still there.

Approximately 677,000 people have been forced from their homes in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, with about half of those displaced currently in neighbouring Poland, according to the UN.

On Monday, ICC Prosecutor Karim A A Khan announced plans to launch an investigation into the ongoing Russian invasion, saying that there is a “reasonable basis” to believe that war crimes have been committed.

Khan said the probe would look into alleged crimes committed by “any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine”, adding that his office will proceed with the investigation “as rapidly as possible”.

Established in 2002, the Hague-based court investigates and prosecutes genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

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Last week, Khan warned the warring parties that his office had jurisdiction over Ukraine because the Ukrainian government accepted the ICC’s mandate in 2015, despite the country initially not being a party to the Rome Statute that established the court.

In his statement on Monday, Khan said the next step in the process was to seek and obtain “authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open an investigation” into the situation in Ukraine.

But he said the process could be expedited should an ICC state party refer the situation to his office, “which would allow us to actively and immediately proceed with the Office’s independent and objective investigations”.

Canada is a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would ban imports of Russian crude oil and supply Ukraine with anti-tank weapons and upgraded ammunition, in response to the ongoing Russian attacks.

“We are announcing our intention to ban all imports of crude oil from Russia, an industry that has benefitted President [Vladimir] Putin and his oligarchs greatly,” Trudeau told reporters in the capital, Ottawa.

Canada also will step up “lethal aid” to Ukraine and send 100 Carl Gustaf anti-tank weapon systems and 2,000 rockets “as quickly as possible”, said Defence Minister Anita Anand.

Ambassadors and diplomats walk out during a virtual speech by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov to the UN Human Rights Council
Ambassadors and diplomats walked out while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva [Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies