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Questions and Answers: Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA) for Ukraine

Why was the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA) set up?   

The European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom fully support Ukraine in making sure that those responsible for the terrible atrocities committed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022 are brought to justice.

As the legally constituted authority responsible for dealing with investigations of war crimes in Ukrainian territory, the Office of the Prosecutor of Ukraine (OPG) will play a crucial role in ensuring that those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities are held accountable. The Office of the Prosecutor General will likely bear the greatest burden of cases.

Ukrainian prosecutors and investigators are very capable and have been doing outstanding work. Nevertheless, the scale of what is happening now is unprecedented and is placing huge demands on the Office of the Prosecutor General. Such demands would prove challenging for any law enforcement authorities in any country.

The ACA support to the OPG seeks to streamline coordination and communication efforts to ensure best practice, avoid duplication of efforts and encourage the expedient deployment of financial resources and skilled personnel to respond to the needs of the OPG. In doing so, we are supporting the OPG in this moment of unprecedented challenges. 

How does this initiative fit with other international efforts to support the investigation and prosecution of atrocities in Ukraine?

The EU, the United States and the UK are supporting a range of accountability mechanisms, including investigations by Ukraine’s national authorities, and international investigations, including the ICC, as well as investigations by third countries that can establish jurisdiction. We support the important work of human rights documenters on the ground in Ukraine and other accountability-related efforts – including the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry and the OSCE Moscow Mechanism Expert Mission. But Ukraine’s national authorities will likely bear the greatest burden of cases and that is why we are so committed to supporting the OPG.   

This is part of a broad commitment by the United States, EU, the UK, and other partners to demonstrate international support and solidarity at this crucial historical moment for Ukraine. 

What is the role of Ukrainian authorities in investigating war crimes committed on Ukrainian territory?

The ACA’s engagement with the OPG and other justice, law enforcement and security agencies has been and will continue to be driven by the needs of the Ukrainian government and the parameters of its support will be developed in close consultation with the OPG, which is the legally constituted authority responsible for dealing with the prosecution of war crimes in Ukraine. Our goal is to make sure the OPG and other government entities of Ukraine have the appropriate support and war crimes expertise to continue doing their work and respond as best as possible to the unprecedented challenges of the current situation.  

What operational activities are ACA’s experts engaged in?   

ACA will bring together multinational experts to provide strategic advice, operational assistance and training as needed in areas such as crime scene and forensic investigations, drafting of indictments, collection and preservation of evidence, operational analysis, investigation of conflict-related sexual violence, and co-operation with international and national accountability mechanisms, and other areas of specialization.   
   
In practice, the ACA’s support is composed of two key elements:   
•    An Advisory Group to the OPG, made up of experienced senior war crimes prosecutors, investigators and other specialists based in the region, provides expertise, mentoring, advice and operational support to the OPG.   
•    Mobile Justice Team (MJTs), composed of both international and Ukrainian experts, are created and deployed at the request of the OPG to increase the capacity of the War Crimes Unit and regional prosecutors to conduct field investigations and assist Ukrainian investigators on the ground. 

Why don’t you share operational details of ACA’s support, expert locations, and others?

The exact location of the experts or other operational details cannot be disclosed as that might compromise the integrity of investigative efforts, the collection of evidence and the safety of potential witnesses as well as experts of the ACA, the OPG or other partners involved. This is in line with best practices in investigative efforts of this nature.   

Do you foresee a special tribunal being set up to investigate and prosecute these crimes?   

There are already many ongoing national and international accountability efforts – including the ICC’s investigation, and investigations by third countries that have jurisdiction over crimes committed in Ukraine, including participants in the relevant Joint Investigative Teams.
The main goal of this effort is to ensure that the OPG as the legally constituted authority responsible for dealing with the prosecution of war crimes in Ukraine receives the support, advice and resources it needs to prosecute perpetrators of atrocity crimes committed on Ukrainian territory if, and when, that time comes.  

How many experts make up the ACA, where are they located, and what are their nationalities?

The ACA brings together a multi-national group of experts from European Union countries, the United States, the United Kingdom and other nations.

Due to the current security situation in Ukraine, the experts are primarily based in south-eastern Poland but are operationally engaged in Ukraine, including by means of short-term missions and on-site interaction with the OPG staff and other international partners engaged. As the security situation permits, it is anticipated that the ACA’s experts and support staff will relocate entirely to Ukraine. 

Who is implementing this joint US-EU-UK-initiative?   

The ACA is supported by the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice (GCJ) and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).  ACA partners include the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Global Rights Compliance, and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). On the EU side, coordination will be ensured by the European External Action Service (EEAS), through the EU Delegation to Ukraine, the EU Project Pravo-Justice II and the EU Advisory Mission Ukraine (EUAM). The UK contribution will be coordinated by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and other relevant UK Government Departments.