The European Commission (EC) is proposing to amend the regulation on the EU agency for judicial cooperation in criminal matters, Eurojust, to give the agency the legal ability to collect, store and share evidence of war crimes, the EU Commission on April 25th.
There have been numerous allegations by Russian troops of committing war crimes in Ukraine, including large numbers of premeditated killings, sexual assaults and forced deportations of civilians.
The European Commission said the ongoing conflict made it difficult to keep and store evidence safely in Ukraine.
“In order to ensure accountability for the crimes committed in Ukraine, it is crucial to ensure the safekeeping of evidence outside Ukraine and to support investigations and prosecutions by various European and international judicial authorities,” the EC said.
Since March, Eurojust has been supporting a joint EU investigative team investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine, according to the commission.
While Eurojust has practical experience of international crimes, the existing regulation did not foresee a situation and crimes of this magnitude, which requires an update of Eurojust’s legal basis, the European Commission said.
European Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová said: “Ukraine’s fight is our fight.
“We must work together to ensure war criminals are brought to justice. We must strengthen Eurojust to ensure it has the necessary tools to deal with the scale of the atrocities in Ukraine. Europe is determined and we will do what we can to help,” said Jourová.
EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said: “Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the world has witnessed the atrocities in Bucha, Kramatorsk and other Ukrainian cities.
“Those responsible for the war crimes in Ukraine must be held accountable. To do this, we need to ensure that evidence is held securely, analyzed and shared with national and international authorities, including the International Criminal Court. Today we propose to empower Eurojust to carry out these tasks. Impunity will not be tolerated,” Reynders said.
National authorities are already collecting evidence of possible crimes being committed in Ukraine, the European Commission said.
It was necessary to set up a central backup store where EU agencies and bodies, as well as national and international authorities or third parties, such as B. civil society organizations, collected evidence could be preserved.
Whilst the Eurojust Regulation provides that Eurojust shall support the actions of Member States in the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes, including serious international crimes, it does not provide that Eurojust retain such evidence more permanently or, where necessary, analyze and exchange it directly with international judicial authorities such as to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In order for Eurojust to properly carry out its tasks in relation to such crimes, the Commission is proposing to amend the Eurojust Regulation.
Once adopted by MEPs and the Council of the EU, the proposal will allow Eurojust to collect, analyze and store evidence related to serious international crimes, as well as to process and share data such as videos, audio recordings and satellite images evidence with the competent authorities national and international authorities, including the ICC.
Sharing such evidence would only happen if done appropriately and in full compliance with EU data protection rules, the EC said.
In a separate statement on April 25, the commission said healthcare systems in neighboring countries were under significant pressure amid the ongoing war and the continued arrival of people from Ukraine.
Poland, Slovakia, Moldova, but also Ukraine have asked the EU for help in evacuating patients in need of medical assistance.
In response, the EU has now coordinated the evacuation of almost 200 people via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to 11 European countries (Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain and Portugal).
This is supported by rescEU’s first medical evacuation plane, which is helping to transfer Ukrainian patients. The aircraft is funded by the EU and hosted by Norway, a participating country in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said: “Among the millions of people fleeing Russian aggression in Ukraine, the chronically ill are those in urgent need of specialized medical care.
“We see strong solidarity from member states providing beds to treat those most in need. This saves lives and puts EU solidarity into practice,” said Lenarčič.
(Photo: EC Audiovisual Service/ Lukasz Kobus)
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