March 25, 2023

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War crimes from Ukraine, investigated in Romania. Shield: The evidence will be able to be used by the International Criminal Court

The General Prosecutor of Romania, Gabriela Scutea, declared, in an exclusive interview for Știrile Pro TV, that the evidence collected in the country will be able to be used in the proceedings of the International Criminal Court.

Ovidiu Oanța, PRO TV news correspondent: We are entering a new phase of investigations into what is happening in Ukraine. Already for more than six months, at one point, the Public Ministry announced the opening of an investigation in Bucharest, regarding alleged war crimes. We are practically moving to a new stage in terms of the investigation, not only in Romania, but at the European level. What is it about and, practically, to which investigation team is the General Prosecutor’s Office of Romania attached?.

Gabriela Scutea, Prosecutor General of Romania: The joint investigation team has been established at Eurojust since the beginning of the conflict. I can no longer remember precisely. I think it was in March, and the first initiating EU member states were Lithuania and Poland, which joined Ukraine. This joint investigation team, the JIT, in the technical language of prosecutors, has a very big advantage. Any test conducted in any of the states involved in the JIT can be used in any of them. Exemplifying the imminent accession of Romania to this joint investigation team, our evidence will be able to be used in the Czech Republic or Slovakia or in Poland, or even in the proceedings of the International Criminal Court, because this international institution is also in close coordination with what happens within the JIT. From our point of view, the investigation brought under the umbrella of the JIT will mean a lot of structuring, because we emphasized, following the meeting we had, in July, with the deputy general prosecutor of Ukraine, we will work according to some patterns of questions, which must be addressed to the witnesses and victims of the facts ascertained and investigated by the Ukrainian authorities. This is the first point. The second very important point of the JIT refers to the collection of material evidence, in the sense of collecting, first of all, images, videos and photographs, which people may have and from which elements of identification of Russian military units may result operating on the territory of Ukraine. It resulted, for example, from one of the hearings conducted and the evidence provided by a person, the establishment of identification elements of a person who actually shot in the direction of some civilians, in a locality. So, there are many directions in which the investigation can move forward. Including, we are advancing in the area of ​​material evidence, in the sense of projectile traces created on cars, on people’s personal belongings. Including that, we have to check, if from the surgical interventions that are performed for injured people from Ukraine, the projects are actually recovered. It is the same as in a procedure that is performed here, in case of injury produced by gunshot or explosion. So, the investigation has a direction that, regardless of whether it is about Ukraine or an incident like this explosion, shooting, produced in Romania, we know what is the typical to follow for our fellow prosecutors and the policemen who assist us.

Ovidiu Oanța, Știrile Pro TV correspondent: We start from the premise of that announcement you made a few months ago, regarding the opening of an investigation in Romania, a criminal investigation file, related to what is happening in Ukraine. From what you have told me so far, I understand that you have already accessed in these procedures, many people who have arrived in Romania, important witnesses, victims. I would like you to tell us about the hearings that the Romanian prosecutors have already managed to conduct among the Ukrainian refugees, both those who migrated, being forced by events, and those who arrived here, being injured and practically ending up in Romanian hospitals , where they received medical care.

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Gabriela Scutea, The General Prosecutor of Romania: As we indicated in the announcement that was posted on our website, hearing people, victims or witnesses, we do not want to have a very invasive nature in their lives. We’re not going to wait for them at the border and every person who comes in, let’s say, we need your story. This collection of evidence, testimonials, is based on the voluntary participation of refugees in our investigation, so we have transmitted the data through which we can be contacted and the availability to listen, to the Embassy of Ukraine in Bucharest. I was in touch with Mr. Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, also with the Government of Romania, which manages many social initiatives that support refugees, but also with municipalities in larger cities, where refugee reception areas are established. But, subsequently, many of them do not stay on the territory of Romania. In this context, we had higher expectations regarding the willingness of victims and witnesses to come to us. However, until now, we can say that we have 106 victims, Ukrainian citizens, who were treated in hospitals in Romania, and for them we administered a specific evidence of gunshot or explosion injuries. Not only did we go on to interview victims and witnesses, but we also collected medical documents, so that in the next stage we will proceed to request medico-legal opinions from the medico-legal institutes in Romania, and make them available to the joint investigation team. I would like to point out that within the JIT we have a translation requirement. We administer the documents in Romanian, according to the national procedure, but later it will be necessary for them to be translated. We will see, depending on which is the interested authority or the first interested authority, whether the working language will be, for example, Ukrainian or Polish or Czech, or we are working on a system of translating all the documents into English, and then each resolves its internal procedures through documents in English. Romania’s association with the joint investigation team is of real use, because the joint investigation team also provides a budget, grants financial resources to the participating institutions. In a procedure of this kind, the use of interpreters has a very important volume and weight, which means some expenses that, at the beginning of the year, for the Public Ministry, we did not think about. In this way, we come and offset certain expenses. There will be other types of expenses that can be borne from the funds made available by the JIT, and, I am thinking, in this context, of possible technical, ballistic expertise that can intervene in terms of the administration of the population. So, there will certainly be advantages for us from this association, and we have also thought about the scenario that there are people in connection with whom we will find medical documents or we have already found them at the health institutions in Romania, but who have left the territory nationally, once they have received medical care. In this way, if the people, for example, identify themselves on the territory of Poland and want to give a statement to the Polish authorities, we will manage, within the joint investigation team, to put together the medical documents from Romania, everything that was administered to us , with that administered by other partners in the joint investigation team.

Ovidiu Oanța, Știrile Pro TV correspondent: I would like you to tell me if you are still in the rem criminal prosecution phase in the case in Romania. Are there premises after the hearing of these injured parties, after the identification including of some of the suspects, based on the testimonies, photographs or video images, is there the possibility of starting a criminal prosecution in personam (against some persons), on the territory of Romania?

Gabriela Scutea, The General Prosecutor of Romania: For the time being, we cannot advance a date for the commencement of the prosecution in personam, and I will explain why. We currently have photos showing a tank, a truck and a Russian soldier. We need to get to the identity of the aggressor against civilians. That means a lot of effort. I am constantly following communications that the Ukrainian authorities make, including the Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine, regarding how they manage to move from those tens of thousands of investigations for crimes against humanity to investigations against certain suspects. Is very difficult. They have at their disposal, as far as I can see in the public sources, the whole palette of means of evidence accessible in a proceeding, including interceptions, including location data. And then, by bringing down many elements, it is possible to start a criminal investigation against a suspect. This is the major advantage in a conflict of this magnitude, that everyone can put together the evidence in such a way that corroborating it is a step forward relevant to the investigation.

Ovidiu Oantă, PRO correspondent TV: Have you requested explanations or information from the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Bucharest so far?

Gabriela Scutea, The General Prosecutor of Romania: On this fact, I do not wish to comment.

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