Marking a historic moment, the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression Against Ukraine (ICPA) officially started operations today at Eurojust. The ICPA will support the preparation of crime of aggression cases, by securing crucial evidence and facilitating the process of case building at an early stage.
At a dedicated launch event on 3 July at Eurojust’s premises in The Hague, the ICPA was inaugurated by Eurojust’s President Ladislav Hamran, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin, ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, and Justice Minister of the Netherlands Ms Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius. At the same time, a contribution agreement with the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments was signed and the Centre’s first operational kick-off meeting took place.
During the launch event, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said:
With the set-up of the ICPA, the European Union reiterates its commitment to ensuring full accountability for the international crimes committed during Russia’s war against Ukraine, including the crime of aggression. The set-up of the ICPA is a clear signal to the world that the prohibition of the use of force continues to be the foundation of our international rule-based order and that those who violate it will be held accountable.
Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran stated:
Eurojust has built up a solid track record in providing operational, technical, logistical and financial support to national prosecutors working on cross-border cases. From the very start of this war, the same support has served to coordinate and strengthen national investigations into international crimes committed in Ukraine. The ICPA represents a crucial next step in our collective efforts to end impunity at all levels.
Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin remarked:
The official launch of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression is a clear signal that the world is united and unwavering on the path to holding the Russian regime accountable for all its crimes. There is, unfortunately, a gaping hole in accountability for the crime of aggression in the international criminal justice architecture. The ICPA is one of the building blocks of reinforcing the prohibition of aggression, thus completing and strengthening this architecture.
Karim A.A. Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court commented:
Out of the true darkness and suffering that we have seen across Ukraine, we have also seen light emerge in the building of new partnerships towards accountability. I am clear in my message today that we remain committed to further strengthening the foundations for cooperation we have built with Eurojust and national authorities over the last year through the Joint Investigative Team.
The U.S. Department of Justice is proud to stand alongside our European partners and be among the first to participate in the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression Against Ukraine (ICPA), said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
The Justice Department’s newly appointed U.S. Special Prosecutor for the Crime of Aggression, Jessica Kim, will represent the United States at the ICPA, and she will have unfettered access to the substantial body of expertise and resources that the Department has amassed in response to Russia’s unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine.
Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, Justice Minister of the Netherlands added:
Today with the opening of the ICPA we have taken an important step in ensuring that international crimes resulting from Russian aggression against Ukraine will be prosecuted. This requires complex investigations and we can help each other with this in the ICPA. For that reason the Netherlands is proud to be the host country of the ICPA.
The ICPA and Eurojust’s role
The ICPA is a unique judicial hub embedded in Eurojust to support national investigations into the crime of aggression related to the war in Ukraine. Thanks to the ICPA, independent prosecutors from different countries will be able to work together in the same location on a daily basis, exchange evidence in a fast and efficient manner, and agree on a common investigative and prosecution strategy. The work of the ICPA will effectively prepare and contribute to any future prosecutions of the crime of aggression, irrespective of the jurisdiction before which these will be brought.
Participants in the ICPA will benefit from Eurojust’s tailor-made operational, technical, logistical and financial support. The Core International Crimes Evidence Database (CICED), managed by Eurojust, will be central in enabling the ICPA’s work. Evidence already submitted to CICED in the context of other international crimes (crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes) may be equally relevant for the investigation into the crime of aggression. It will also be possible to store national evidence in CICED brought in by future ICPA participants to subsequently be analysed.
Being located in The Hague has several advantages. Not only will the ICPA have direct access to the valuable expertise of the Genocide Network Secretariat hosted at Eurojust, but it will also facilitate close cooperation and coordination with the ICC and other international justice actors.
What makes the ICPA urgent and unique?
The war in Ukraine is the most documented in history, and, for the first time, active investigations into the crime of aggression are taking place while an armed conflict is still ongoing. At the same time, we are dealing with an international crime that has rarely been prosecuted and for which there is no standard practice.
The swift establishment of the ICPA bridges the gap between ambitions and reality, bringing together relevant stakeholders, securing crucial evidence and making sure that no time is lost in building a case for the future prosecution of the crime of aggression. In doing so, the legal community is delivering a clear message that those responsible for the crime of aggression against Ukraine will be held accountable. Today’s launch of the ICPA therefore represents a landmark moment for international justice.
Participants in the ICPA
In addition to Ukraine, five of the joint investigation team (JIT) members (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Romania) are participating in the ICPA’s start-up phase. The ICPA will also benefit from the participation of the ICC. Following a Memorandum of Understanding with the JIT members, the United States has appointed a Special Prosecutor for the Crime of Aggression, who will be supporting the ICPA’s activities.
In the coming months, the participation of other countries and organisations in the ICPA, such as the EU Advisory Mission to Ukraine, will be facilitated. Countries in possession of information or evidence relevant to the investigation of the crime of aggression against Ukraine may also request their participation.
The ICPA is fully funded by the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments. The financial contribution agreement covering an initial amount of EUR 8.3 million was signed today by the Director of the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments Mr Peter M. Wagner, and Eurojust’s Administrative Director Mr Evert van Walsum.
Eurojust’s overall support to Ukraine accountability efforts
Since the outbreak of the war, Eurojust has been at the forefront of supporting accountability for Russian crimes, based on its 20 years’ experience of working with national prosecutors on cross-border cases.
Just six days following the start of the war, Eurojust supported the set-up of a JIT that now consists of Ukraine, six EU Member States and the ICC. Recognising the specific evidentiary challenges related to this type of investigation, a CICED was established, based on an urgent amendment of Eurojust’s mandate following the invasion of Ukraine. So far, hundreds of files from nine countries including Ukraine have been submitted to CICED. The first analytical results confirm the tangible benefits of the database for prosecutorial practice.
The Agency also hosts the EU Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (the Genocide Network), a central hub for the exchange of expertise in this area.
Already having this advanced support structure in place makes Eurojust best placed to host the ICPA.
The crime of aggression is a crime committed by the highest political and military leadership. Given that Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute, the ICC currently cannot prosecute the Russian leadership for the crime of aggression in the context of Russia's war against Ukraine.
To close this gap, in November 2022 the European Commission and the European External Action Service presented a paper analysing the different options to ensure full accountability for the crimes committed in the context of the Russian war against Ukraine, including the crime of aggression.
The ICPA is the first step in this process to preserve evidence and prepare cases for future trials, be it before national courts, a dedicated tribunal or the International Criminal Court for crimes within its jurisdiction.
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced the setting up of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression Against Ukraine at the 24th EU-Ukraine Summit on 2 February 2023.
- Eurojust press release on the announcement of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine
- Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy
- Statement by President von der Leyen on the establishment of the International Centre for the Prosecution of Crimes of Aggression against Ukraine
Other Ukraine-related developments:
- Timeline marking Eurojust’s judicial response to the war in Ukraine
- Overview of Eurojust’s support to justice for Ukraine
- Factsheet on the joint investigation team into alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine
- Factsheet on the Core International Crimes Evidence Database
- EU Solidarity with Ukraine website