Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group for Ukraine to Record War Crimes by Russia

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Department of State
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Department of State

The United States, along with the European Union and the United Kingdom, has created the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA). This joint initiative will directly support the efforts of the War Crimes Units of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine (OPG) to document, preserve, and analyze evidence of war crimes and other atrocities committed in Ukraine, with a view toward criminal prosecutions.  

“As we launch this initiative, the Department of State will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice and other partners to support the pursuit of justice and accountability,” said Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, in a statement issued on May 25.

“As the recent joint statement  issued by the Attorney General and his international counterparts makes clear, we are united across the globe in our resolve to hold perpetrators responsible,” he added.

According to the U.S., evidence of atrocities by members of Russia’s forces in Ukraine continues to mount. Initially, this violence took the form of bombardments and missile and artillery strikes hitting densely populated cities and towns, causing thousands of civilian deaths and destruction of civilian infrastructure. 

Later, when journalists, human rights defenders, and Ukrainian officials gained access to areas following the retreat of Russia’s forces, there were reports of violence of a different order — credible reports of unarmed civilians shot in the back; individuals killed execution-style with their hands bound; bodies showing signs of torture; and horrific accounts of sexual violence against women and girls.  

Most recently, according to the U.S. statement, credible reports are emerging of Ukrainian children being forcibly transferred out of the country. The establishment of this multilateral accountability effort, therefore, comes at a critical time. 

The ACA will provide strategic advice and operational assistance to the War Crimes Units of the OPG, the legally constituted authority responsible for prosecuting war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine.

Although the United States and its partners are supporting a range of international efforts to pursue accountability for atrocities, the OPG will play a crucial role in ensuring that those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities are held accountable.  

The ACA’s assistance to the War Crimes Units of the OPG includes expanded funding for the work of a multinational team of international prosecutors and other war crimes experts already deployed to the region.  

This interdisciplinary team is providing strategic advice and operational assistance in areas such as collection and preservation of evidence, military analysis, investigation of conflict-related sexual violence, and co-operation with international and national accountability mechanisms. In this regard, the ACA will liaise with the Department of Justice as it pursues accountability in U.S. courts.

“We look forward to working with Madame Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to further the cause of justice for the people of Ukraine. At the same time, our Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies will be vigilant in doing our part to promote accountability for the war crimes and other atrocities being committed by Russia’s forces,” Blinken stated.

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Rakesh Raman