UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited sites of suspected war crimes in Ukraine on Thursday, where he condemned the “evil” acts committed against civilians and urged criminal accountability.
The UN chief’s visit to the Kyiv suburbs of Borodyanka, Bucha and Irpin comes nine weeks since the Russian invasion began. Mr. Guterres urged Russia “to accept to cooperate” with the ongoing investigation launched by the International Criminal Court, the ICC.
“When we see this horrendous site, it makes me feel how important it is [to have] a thorough investigation and accountability,” Mr. Guterres said, speaking from Bucha, where disturbing images of dead civilians lying in the street sparked worldwide outrage earlier this month.
He added: “I fully support the International Criminal Court and I appeal to the Russian Federation to accept to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.”
Surveying destroyed buildings in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, the Secretary-General also called the war “an absurdity”.
“I must say what I feel. I imagined my family in one of those houses that is now destroyed and black,” he said. “I see my granddaughters running away in panic, part of the family eventually killed. So, the war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil.”
In Irpin, where Mr. Guterres visited the destroyed Irpinsky Lipki residential complex, he said that the “horrific scenario demonstrates something that is unfortunately, always true: civilians always pay the highest price”.
Earlier this month, UN rights chief, Michelle Bachelet said that she had been “horrified” by images showing the bodies of dead civilians lying in the streets of Bucha, and in improvised graves.
“Reports emerging from this and other areas, raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes as well as grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law,” the High Commissioner said in a statement.
Global justice must be served
Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for justice for the victims of atrocities in Ukraine, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said that he favoured neither Russia nor Ukraine, in the search for the truth.
“This is not really a time for talking, it’s a time for action. International law can’t be a passive spectator. It can’t be sedentary, it needs to move with alacrity and to protect and to insist on accountability,” said Karim Khan, speaking to journalists on Wednesday evening outside the Security Council at UN headquarters in New York.
“The law is above us, and if the law is not above us, there’s nothing below us, except the abyss.”
ICC Prosecutor Khan launched an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity on 2 March, after referral of a request by 43 States Parties.
The focus of the investigation is “alleged crimes committed in the context of situation in Ukraine since 21 November 2013”. Since the investigation opened, a team of analysts, anthropologists and investigators has already examined several locations in Ukraine, including Lviv, Kyiv and Bucha, Mr. Khan said.