West seeks to coordinate Ukraine war crimes evidence

STORY: With more than 20,000 war crimes investigations open and different countries heading teams, evidence needs to be credible and organized, officials said.

"Just like a climate strategy and a COVID strategy, we need an accountability strategy: a strategy driven by the universal belief that all of us - all of us - are protected by law, ensuring that all roads lead to justice now and in the future," Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra told a meeting in The Hague.

" As we speak, children, women and men - the young and the old - are living in terror. They are suffering in Ukraine and in so many different parts of the World, grieving about what they lost yesterday, holding their breath about what they could lose today and what tomorrow could bring. At a time like this, the law cannot be a spectator," ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan told the conference.

Russian forces have bombed Ukrainian cities to ruins and left behind bodies in the streets of towns and villages they occupied since invading in February. Ukraine says tens of thousands of civilians have died. Moscow denies targeting them.

There have also been some reports of Ukrainians mistreating Russian prisoners, though the vast majority of accusations documented by bodies such as the United Nations are of alleged atrocities committed by Russian invaders and their proxies.

The European Union's justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, highlighted the need for coordination in the collection of evidence.

"Coordination, it's an important word because we have to work not only for the next month, the next years but maybe the next decades and we'll continue to do that to bring all the perpetrators of atrocities in Ukraine to justice," he said.

Host country the Netherlands hopes that Thursday's meeting - the Ukraine Accountability Conference - agrees on evidence sharing, a prosecution strategy and providing international war crimes expertise to investigators on the ground.

Russia denies involvement in war crimes and says it is conducting a "special military operation" to protect Russian speakers and root out nationalists.

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