Kiev invites ICC to probe war crimes in east Ukraine
Ukraine on Tuesday accepted the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction to probe war crimes, including in its war-torn east, since February 2014.
"Ukraine accepts the jurisdiction of the court for the purpose of identifying, prosecuting and judging perpetrators and accomplices of acts committed on the territory of Ukraine since February 20 2014," said a letter, signed by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and accepted by the Hague-based court.
Although Ukraine is not a state party to the court, it can accept the ICC's jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis for crimes committed within a particular time frame.
Ukraine has already given the ICC the green light to probe alleged crimes committed between November 21, 2013 when pro-EU demonstrations erupted in Kiev and February 22 last year, when pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted.
"What it means is that the Prosecutor will now be able to probe crimes after February 22 last year, with an open-ended time frame," ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told AFP.
This included the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where nearly 8,000 people -- including civilians, soldiers and militia members -- have been killed since its outbreak in mid-April 2014.
The world crimes court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in April last year opened a preliminary probe into the crimes committed before February 22.
The ICC however warned on Tuesday "the acceptance of the court's jurisdiction does not automatically trigger an investigation."
"It is for the ICC Prosecutor to decide whether or not to request the judges' authorisation to open an investigation," it said in a statement.
"Ukraine will cooperate with the Court to end impunity for international crimes," Ukraine's Klimkin later said in a tweet.
Opened in 2003, the ICC is the world's only permanent independent court, set up to try the worst crimes like genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Earlier Tuesday, the United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) in Geneva said at least 7,962 people in eastern Ukraine had been killed and more than 17,811 wounded since mid-April 2014.
Its report underscored brutality in the rebel-controlled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk but also drew attention to "a persistent pattern of arbitary and incommunicado detention" by Ukrainian forces in areas controlled by Kiev.
© 2015 AFP