There will be “a case to answer in due course” on Russia’s alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan told CNN Tuesday.
“We will get to the truth because there's no place to hide in the courtroom. Whatever the narratives and counter-narratives, the evidence should properly be tested … and there will be — I think — a case to answer in due course,” Khan told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a wide-ranging interview, when asked how the ICC might build a case in Ukraine.
Khan made the comments while reviewing images shared with CNN by Ukrainian prosecutors, as they investigate alleged Russian war crimes.
Located on the outskirts of Kyiv, Bucha was occupied by Russian forces for roughly three weeks in March. The photos -- which were taken from March 5-7 -- show the bodies of civilians littered in the streets of several locations around the town.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the mass killings of civilians in Ukraine, while reiterating baseless claims that images of bodies on the streets of Bucha are “fake.”
Khan addressed Russia’s disinformation directly. “Those bodies that are in those bags on the screen are not fake. I’ve seen them. I stood beside them. The issue is how did they die, who is responsible and in what circumstances?” Khan said, adding that the world was watching to see how “effective the rule of law” would be regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
We need to go forward in a way that’s much more effective perhaps than in the past,” Khan explained, hinting at jurisdictional issues faced by the ICC.
On Monday, the ICC joined an EU investigation into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine during Russia’s invasion, marking the court's first joint investigation in its twenty-year history.
“The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in The Hague will become a participant in the joint investigation team (JIT) on alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine,” the EU’s judicial cooperation agency said in a statement.
During a visit to the towns of Bucha and Borodianka in mid-April, Khan said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC” were being committed there.
But Khan also warned that it would be “challenging” to guarantee justice would be served in Ukraine, given Russia’s decision to withdraw its signature from the ICC statute, which gives the court jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
Russia also doesn’t extradite its citizens to other countries.
Evidence of mass graves in the towns of Bucha and Borodianka has continued to emerge since early April, following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kyiv region.