Live Updates: Russia invades Ukraine

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova talks to reporters during a press conference in Lviv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9. (Alyona Nikolaevich/Ukrinform/NurPhoto/AP)

A strong and growing chorus calls for an international effort to investigate potential war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called the Russian shelling of a maternity and children’s hospital in the southern city of Mariupol a “war crime” and “evidence of genocide of Ukrainians”.

“We have never done and we would never have done anything like this, anything close to this war crime in any city in Donetsk or Luhansk region, or any region,” he said. he said, referring to two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine.

The UN said it would follow up “as a matter of urgency” and that health facilities, hospitals and health workers should “never, ever be a target”.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Attorney General Iryna Venediktova called for a ‘new model’ of investigative efforts to tackle alleged war crimes in the country, saying a special court should be created for the ‘unprecedented’ crisis. . She said 39 countries have joined Ukraine’s appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Russia.

Russia’s attack on a nuclear power plant, the alleged use of cluster bombs and so-called vacuum bombs in dense areas, and the targeting of hospitals, schools and civilian areas were also described as war crimes.

Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said it would immediately conduct an active investigation into possible war crimes following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The UN is also setting up a commission of inquiry to investigate possible human rights violations by Russia.

What is a war crime? The ICC has specific definitions for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. Targeting civilian populations, violating the Geneva Conventions, targeting specific groups of people and more could be potential Russian war crimes. “One thing is certain, intentionally directing bombing or targeting civilians or civilian property is a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court,” ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN. last week.

What is the ICC? Located in The Hague, Netherlands, and created by a treaty called the Rome Statute first presented to the UN, the ICC operates independently. Some 123 countries are party to the treaty, but there are very important and notable exceptions, including Russia and the United States. And, by the way, Ukraine.

Learn more about war crimes:

Analysis: Everything you need to know about war crimes and how Putin could be prosecuted