The European Council said on April 4 the EU condemns in the strongest possible terms the reported atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in a number of occupied Ukrainian towns, that have now been liberated.
“Haunting images of large numbers of civilian deaths and casualties, as well as destruction of civilian infrastructures show the true face of the brutal war of aggression Russia is waging against Ukraine and its people,” the EU Council said in a statement, adding that the massacres in the town of Bucha and other Ukrainian towns will be inscribed in the list of atrocities committed on European soil.
“The Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area. They are subject to the international law of occupation,” the EU Council said, stressing that the perpetrators of war crimes and other serious violations as well as the responsible government officials and military leaders will be held accountable. The EU said it supports all measures to ensure accountability for human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine by Russian Armed forces.
“We fully support the investigation launched by the ICC Prosecutor into war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as the work of the OHCHR Commission of Inquiry. The EU is assisting the Ukrainian Prosecutor General and Civil Society focused on collection and preservation of the evidences of the war crimes,” the statement read.
“We stand in full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in these sombre hours for the whole world,” the Council said, adding that the EU will continue to firmly support Ukraine and will advance, as a matter of urgency, work on further sanctions against Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians, the EU said, adding, “President Putin must stop this war immediately and unconditionally”.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU is ready to send Joint Investigation Teams to document war crimes in coordination with the Ukrainian Prosecutor General.
Following reports of apparent war crimes committed by Russian military forces against civilians in Bucha, Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said, “these reports from Bucha are showing a wider pattern of war crimes including extrajudicial executions and torture in other occupied areas of Ukraine”.
“We fear the violence suffered by civilians in Bucha at the hands of Russian soldiers is not unique. These incidents should be investigated as war crimes,” Callamard said.
She noted that to date, Amnesty International has gathered evidence of civilians in Ukraine killed by indiscriminate attacks in Kharkiv and Sumy Oblast, documented an airstrike that killed civilians queueing for food in Chernihiv, and gathered evidence from civilians living under siege in Kharkiv, Izium and Mariupol.”
On March 21, EU Member States accused Russia’s military of committing war crimes in Ukraine. With civilian deaths mounting in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, AP quoted German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock as saying the “courts will have to decide, but for me these are clearly war crimes”.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also said “what’s happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime. Destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody in an indiscriminate manner. This is something awful”. Borrell underlined that “war also has law.”