War crimes and crimes of aggression in Ukraine must not go unpunished

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Organised by the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration and the Atrocity Crime Advisory Group, a Workshop on War Crimes Investigation and Prosecution – Sharing the Knowledge and Experience of the Republic of Croatia was opened at the National and University Library in Zagreb on 30 June.

The two-day workshop has brought together about thirty Ukrainian prosecutors and police officers with whom Croatian experts will share knowledge and experience in the prosecution of war crimes committed during the Croatian War of Independence. Ukrainian Justice Minister Denys Maliuska and Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin are participating in the workshop.

Opening the workshop, Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica reiterated that Croatia’s support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people was not merely declaratory but real, and that the workshop was one of the activities undertaken by Croatia to share its knowledge and experience with Ukraine.

“Owing to the experience of war, Croatia has developed significant expertise in victimology, inter alia thanks to Zvonimir Šeparović, Minister of Justice in the sixth Government of the Republic of Croatia, who initiated the action of the Republic of Croatia against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, based on the principle that no one can forgive crimes on behalf of the victims. This principle is still valid today, and that is why the Republic of Croatia strongly supports the fight against impunity, considering it an integral part of the rule of law”, said Minister Malenica, adding that the prosecution of war crimes had been an important aspect of the Croatian accession negotiations with the European Union.

Minister Malenica stressed that the post-conflict transition would be one of the biggest challenges for Ukraine, and a precondition for a successful transition is for justice to be served.

“This workshop is part of our support for Ukraine and our efforts to convey to your years of experience so that you can investigate and prosecute war crimes committed on the territory of your country more effectively”, Malenica said.

Minister Maliuska thanked Croatia for the support it provides to Ukraine and stressed the importance of this workshop for the Ukrainian authorities considering the similarities between the war crimes committed in Croatia and Ukraine.

“There are many similar crimes that were committed in Croatia. You had a dam that was destroyed, and so did we, the difference being only in scale. The type of crime is exactly the same. We want to learn from Croatian prosecutors and judges, about best practices as well as about mistakes so that we don't repeat them”, said Minister Maliuska.

Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin reiterated the importance of exchanging experience in war crimes prosecution because Croatia’s experience has shown what a complex and lengthy process it is.

“Supporting the victims of Russian aggression is an important aspect of justice that requires joint action. For the Ukrainian side, Croatia’s support in the formation of an effective mechanism for the protection of victims in times of aggression is extremely important”, said the Prosecutor General.

The Workshop on War Crimes Investigation and Prosecution was also attended by State Attorney General of the Republic of Croatia Zlata Hrvoj-Šipek and Lead Coordinator of the Atrocity Crime Advisory Group for Ukraine Clint Williamson.