Czech police are investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine

The organized crime squad is investigating suspected war crimes by gathering testimonies from refugees who fled Ukraine.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 19.04.2022 11:21:00 (updated on 19.04.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech police's organized crime squad is investigating suspected war crimes against refugees fleeing from the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Such crimes, which include the use of a prohibited means of warfare and illegal conduct of combat in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, carry up to 20 years in prison or even life imprisonment in the Czech Republic.

"The goal of the proceedings is to secure evidence related to the war crimes through [the questioning of] witnesses, who are victims seeking protection from the war in the territory of Czechia," said Chief State Prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová in a press release issued by the High Public Prosecutor's Office in Prague.

A general understanding of what constitutes a war crime is based on the existence of “grave” breaches of the Geneva Conventions, established in the aftermath of World War II to ensure that civilians captured during the war and combatants who could no longer fight were protected.

A grave breach would include willful killing, serious injury, and torture, as well as legal and humanitarian failings, such as depriving a prisoner of war of the right to a fair trial, excessive demolition of populated urban centers, and taking hostages.

"A precondition for securing enough pieces of evidence is the refugees' willingness to cooperate with the bodies of the Czech Republic," Bradacova said.

An information campaign aiming at the war witnesses will follow to facilitate cooperation.

The police are checking the possible war crimes based on the principle of universality, which makes it possible to assess their criminal character even it the crimes were committed by foreigners.

The police are cooperating with the EU Agency for Criminal Justice (Eurojust).

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During her recent visit to Prague, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson called on Czechs to record the testimonies on war crimes as provided by the refugees coming from Ukraine that have faced Russian military aggression since February 24.

Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan then said that the refugee assistance centers staff have dealt with the problem and told the Ukrainian registration seekers that they can report their experience from the war to the Czech police.

Monika Mareková, an expert on human rights, said at a workshop on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in March that war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine may also be prosecuted by Czechia, like any other country whose criminal code contains these crimes.

The International Criminal Court prosecutor has already started an investigation and the French Interior Ministry of Justice has sent doctors and more than a dozen crime scene investigators to Ukraine to collect evidence for possible war crimes charges.

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