Apr 11, 2022 - World

France sends experts to investigate possible war crimes in Ukraine

A Ukrainian inspecting the remains of Russian military vehicles in Bucha, Ukraine, on April 8.

A Ukrainian inspecting the remains of Russian military vehicles in Bucha on April 8. Photo: Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

France announced Monday it sent crime scene and forensic experts to help investigate possible war crimes in parts of Ukraine previously occupied by Russian forces, including the town of Bucha.

Why it matters: Formal war crime charges are notoriously difficult to prosecute, but they are investigated like any other criminal act: through witnesses interviews, the preservation of photos, videos or other digital evidence and collecting forensic evidence, like DNA.

  • International assistance will help Ukrainian investigators gather and process evidence to determine who is responsible, potentially allowing prosecutors to bring cases against specific members of the Russian military.

Since Russia has withdrawn from northern Ukraine, evidence has surfaced of atrocities committed in the Ukrainian town of Bucha while Russian troops held the town, including indiscriminate killings, torture and other violence against civilians.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week that evidence of similar atrocities has been revealed in other Kyiv suburbs, such as Borodyanka.

What they're saying: France's ministries of interior, justice and foreign affairs announced that two forensic doctors and 15 crime scene investigators arrived in Ukraine and will assist the country with identification and collection of evidence.

  • The ministries said the experts also contribute to the International Criminal Court's investigation into possible war crimes or crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine, which was opened in late February.
  • "Following the discovery of massive abuses reported on Ukrainian territory in areas previously occupied by Russian forces, in particular in the town of Bucha, France is resolutely committed alongside the Ukrainians, its international partners and the courts to prevent impunity for unsustainable acts constituting war crimes," France said.

The big picture: Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a press conference last week that the U.S. chief prosecutor in Paris has met with French prosecutors and they are working out a plan to collect evidence in Ukraine.

Go deeper: Putin unlikely to face punishment for any war crimes in Ukraine

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