Czech police investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine

Bucha, Ukraine

Czech police have started investigating suspected war crimes in Ukraine. They are currently gathering testimonies from refugees who fled the country to the Czech Republic. The Czech judiciary can sentence the perpetrators of the violence in absentia and they would face up to 20 years in prison or even a life sentence.  

The investigation of suspected war crimes in Ukraine is being carried out by a special team of police officers from the National Centre for Combating Organised Crime. According to Chief Prosecutor Lenka Bradáčová, who is overseeing the investigation, officers are now gathering and analysing the available information:

“The aim of the investigation is to secure evidence of war crimes committed in Ukraine from witnesses seeking refuge on the territory of the Czech Republic.

“We have information from public sources about war crimes, namely war atrocities or persecution of the population and looting in the space of the war operations.”

Lenka Bradáčová | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

In order to gather sufficient evidence, the refugees must be willing to cooperate with the Czech authorities, says Mrs Bradáčová, adding that a special information campaign directed at witnesses and victims of the war is soon to be launched. The police also want to draw on social networks and other media, she says:

“Of course we are also interested in securing all electronic evidence, including audio and video recordings and other electronic evidence that can be obtained by the refugees.”

The investigators are also cooperating with other organisations, including the EU Agency for Criminal Justice, which coordinates the transfer of information on criminal proceedings in the individual countries, including Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia and Germany.

The police are investigating possible war crimes based on the principle of universality, which allows to assess their criminal character even if they were committed by foreigners, the head of the National Centre for Combating Organised Crime Jiří Mazánek explains:

Jiří Mazánek | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

“It makes no difference in which country the crime is committed or who commits the crime. It is a universal offence that is prosecutable even in the Czech Republic.”

Perpetrators of war crimes can be tried in Czech Republic in absentia and if convicted would face a sentence of up to 20 years or even life imprisonment.

Some Czech NGOs are also calling on the Czech Republic to pass the so-called Magnitsky Act. The legislation, which is in force in the United States, Great Britain or the Baltic states imposes sanctions on Russian officials responsible for human rights violations and helps seize their assets.

So far, Czechia has seized assets worth around a billion crowns. As regards war crimes in Ukraine, Czech police have already started investigating the first witnesses.

Within the next few weeks, the police are due to set up a special website where people will be able to upload any evidence of war crimes in Ukraine.

Author: Ruth Fraňková
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