Core international crimes

The crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, known collectively as core international crimes, threaten the peace, security and well-being of our world. While today’s conflicts and atrocities largely take place outside EU borders, their impact is keenly felt within the Member States. Under international law, the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute these heinous crimes falls on national authorities.

The escalation of nearby conflicts in the European Union’s wider neighbourhood, combined with the influx of refugees to the Member States in recent years, has left States struggling to manage a growing number of challenging cross-border cases.

Successful investigations are built on specialist knowledge and close coordination between national authorities, and often require the gathering of evidence scattered across different countries. Most cases require interactions with third States and international partners.

Eurojust and the EU Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (‘the Genocide Network’) support national authorities in their investigations and prosecutions.

Challenges

Core international crimes often have direct links with the Member States. Through international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), national authorities have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute war criminals and other perpetrators of core international crimes irrespective of where the crimes have been committed.

States exercise their jurisdiction over these crimes based on the principle of nationality (of a perpetrator or victim) or on the principle of extraterritorial (universal) jurisdiction. The latter enables prosecution of a perpetrator regardless of his or her nationality or that of their victims, subject to certain conditions such as presence or residence in the State of prosecution.

Combined with inflows of refugees to the Member State, the recent escalation of nearby conflicts in Syria and Northern Iraq, as well as more distant locations such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Re-public of Congo, has brought these crimes increasingly within the scope of Europe’s judiciary. These recent or ongoing crimes may directly implicate EU nationals, such as those committed by foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). Alternatively, citizens of Member States may be involved in investigations as witnesses of the committed offences, or even as victims.

As core international crimes are not statute-barred, a number of investigations concerning cases pertaining to the Second World War or to the former communist regimes of Eastern Europe remain ongoing. Additionally, there are ongoing cases relating to the war in former Yugoslavia. Jurisdiction for cases committed in the Member States is based on the principle of territoriality.

Finally, Member States may receive requests for mutual legal assistance relating to core international crimes not linked with their territory, but for the purpose of collecting evidence (for instance, financial or bank information) or the seizure of proceeds of crimes committed abroad.

Eurojust and the Genocide Network

A growing caseload has brought to light the challenges presented at national level by complex cross-border assignments. Investigators and prosecutors may face obstacles in establishing jurisdiction, linking a perpetrator with a crime scene, gathering evidence and finding witnesses. They are often restricted from visiting States where crimes have been committed, preventing them from locating evidence and interviewing witnesses.

Frequent links with other types of crimes, including terrorism, migrant smuggling and human trafficking, trafficking of diamonds and other natural resources, and money laundering present further challenges. These obstacles demand a coordinated approach, with national authorities working together and sharing resources under a cohesive strategy.

Eurojust and the EU Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (‘the Genocide Network’) support national authorities in their investigations and prosecutions.

Working out of Eurojust’s premises in The Hague, their role involves cooperating with practitioners in the field, as well as NGOs and international bodies, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria (UN IIIM), to ensure best practice and serve as a central hub for information and knowledge-sharing during cases.

Find more information on how Eurojust and the Genocide Network support national authorities in their investigations and prosecutions. Additionally, this factsheet provides a comprehensive overview of the successful cooperation, case examples and information on the EU Day against Impunity.

CICED

CICED - Safe transmissions, Secure storage and Advanced AnalysisCICED stands for Core International Crimes Evidence Database. It is a unique, tailor-made judicial database set up by Eurojust to preserve, analyse and store evidence of core international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes). CICED enables the Agency to support national judicial authorities in identifying evidence located in another country that may be relevant to their own investigation. This evidence can be used to corroborate individual offences and events or to unveil systematic actions and provide contextual information.

How it works

Competent national authorities from EU Member States and countries with Liaison Prosecutors at Eurojust can submit evidence to CICED via secure file transfer. Evidence submission is voluntary and the submitting authority remains in control of how the evidence or information about the evidence is shared.

Possible types of evidence include, but are not limited to, videos, photographs, audio recordings, satellite images, witness statements, victim testimonies, and medical and forensic documents.

Information collected by private parties such as non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations may eventually become evidence, but it needs to be assessed by national and international judicial authorities. Private parties are therefore asked to submit relevant information to their national authorities.

Based on CICED, Eurojust can

  • maintain a complete overview of all evidence collected;
  • strengthen the coordination of national and international investigations;
  • perform targeted searches for evidence related to a specific event or location;
  • identify evidentiary gaps;
  • identify parallel investigations;
  • advise on prosecution strategies;
  • facilitate evidence and information exchange on core international crimes; and
  • prepare thematic reports on specific aspects of core international crime investigations (e.g. on sexual and gender-based violence).

Advantages

CICED comes with a number of important benefits. The fact that it stores evidence on core international crimes from national judicial proceedings in a single, secure, central database allows for advanced analysis, leading to, for example, the early identification of parallel investigations, which results in a more efficient use of resources. Providing an overview of interviewed victims helps avoid re-victimisation by repeated interviews. In addition, targeted evidence searches mean faster and more effective national investigations. Based on structured evidence, national and international authorities can successfully proceed with prosecutions.

Scope of the challenge

Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, known collectively as core international crimes, present unique challenges in investigations and prosecutions. Prosecutors need to prove not just the material and mental elements of the crimes, but also their contextual elements, such as:

  • a connection with an armed conflict (war crimes),
  • widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population (crimes against humanity), or
  • the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group (genocide).

Investigations face a fragmented and complex landscape. Thousands of events, countless pieces of evidence and multiple jurisdictions are involved. Evidence of core international crimes is located in many different countries and comes in various languages. Refugees who can provide victim or witness statements are scattered around the world. There are also different stakeholders involved in gathering and storing evidence: national police and judicial authorities, the International Criminal Court and non-governmental organisations. As a result of CICED, Eurojust is now able to make crucial links between the evidence and ensure that the efforts of different authorities are not duplicated.

Legal basis

While CICED is not limited to a particular conflict, and can serve as evidence storage for any armed conflict investigated by Eurojust's partners, it was the ongoing war in Ukraine that demonstrated the need for a centralised judicial database for evidence of core international crimes. Shortly after the beginning of the Russian invasion, the institutions of the European Union extended the Agency's mandate. On 1 June 2022, Regulation 2022/838 entered into force, allowing Eurojust to preserve, analyse and store evidence of core international crimes, paving the way for CICED. The evidence database has been set up within Eurojust's secure IT environment and complies with the highest IT security and data protection standards.

More information

Additional information on CICED can be found in this leaflet.

Publications

PUBLICATION DATE:13 February 2024
This factsheet, developed by the JITs Network Secretariat and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, presents the ways in which the International Criminal Court may be involved in joint investigation teams, the benefits of their involvement, and the support that Eurojust...
PUBLICATION DATE:19 October 2023
This paper provides a comparative overview of the way in which EU Member States, Genocide Network Observer States and Ukraine have implemented the crime of aggression in their domestic laws. How is the crime of aggression defined in national criminal codes? Have the majority of states adopted the...
PUBLICATION DATE:11 October 2023
This report outlines the most prominent cases in which the European Court of Human Rights evalu­ated the application of Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 7 provides that ‘no one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which...
PUBLICATION DATE:02 August 2023
PUBLICATION DATE:23 May 2023
An increasing number of investigations and prosecutions for core international crimes cases in the EU are based on universal jurisdiction. This factsheet explains what universal (or extraterritorial) jurisdiction is, and how it serves as a powerful tool of last resort in the fight against impunity...
PUBLICATION DATE:04 May 2023
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022, is the most documented armed conflict in the history of humankind. It has triggered an unprecedented response from the international judicial community, with Ukraine-related investigations ongoing in over 20 countries at the time of...
PUBLICATION DATE:04 May 2023
This timeline outlines key milestones in Eurojust’s support for the joint investigation team (JIT) into alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine.
PUBLICATION DATE:23 February 2023|Last update: 11 December 2023
CICED is a unique, tailor made judicial database set up by Eurojust in 2023 to preserve, store and analyse evidence of core international crimes. CICED’s centralised approach will support national and international investigations by shedding light not only on individual offences, but also unveiling...
PUBLICATION DATE:21 September 2022
These guidelines aim to assist civil society organisations to collect and preserve information related to international crimes and human rights violations, which may become admissible evidence in court. A series of proposed ‘do’s and don’ts’ are provided, on what may be helpful and what could...
PUBLICATION DATE:29 June 2022
In a landmark judgement on 13 January 2022, the German Higher Regional Court of Koblenz sentenced a former high-ranking Syrian official to life imprisonment for his involvement in crimes against humanity. In 2021, an associate of the high-ranking official was sentenced by the same court to four and...