Influx of refugees into EU leads to 44% increase in war crimes investigations

More than 1,500 new cases were opened in 2021

Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes this week. EPA
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A rise in the number of refugees entering EU states has led to a 44 per cent increase in genocide and war crimes investigations.

Investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes have steadily risen within the EU since 2016, according to Eurojust, the agency for judicial co-operation among member states.

Last year 1,547 new cases were opened, compared with 1,073 in 2016 — an increase of 44 per cent increase on five years earlier.

In 2021, 3,171 cases were ongoing across all member states.

It comes as a Russian soldier, 21, was sentenced to life in prison this week for killing a Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crimes trial held since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Sgt Vadim Shishimarin was found guilty of shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the head in a village in the north-eastern Sumy region in the early days of the war.

While that case did not involve the EU, millions of Ukrainians have fled to member states since Russia invaded three months ago.

Eurojust says the rise in investigations can be attributed, in part, to the escalation of conflicts and human rights violations near EU borders, most recently in Ukraine, Belarus and Syria.

It says this has led to an influx of refugees into member states and national authorities now have a higher level of expertise which has led to an increase in investigations.

European commissioner for justice Didier Reynders said war crimes must be prosecuted.

“In the current situation, we must recognise that peace in Europe cannot be taken for granted,” he said.

“With war, often come war crimes, which violate the most fundamental laws of international order. We must defend these laws at any cost because the consequences for the victims, and humanity, are too grave to accept.”

The latest investigation findings were presented during the 7th EU Day Against Impunity for Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes, organised by the French Presidency of the Council, the commission, Eurojust and the EU's Genocide Network.

“The EU Day Against Impunity serves to remind us of core international crimes that so far have been left unanswered and to strengthen our collective efforts in getting justice done,” Eurojust president Ladislav Hamran said.

“It leads Eurojust to work with prosecutors and investigators in different corners of the world, who count on our partnership and support.

“This is the front line of justice, and a cornerstone in protecting the rule of law against core international crimes going unpunished.”

Eurojust and the Genocide Network support national authorities in their investigations and prosecutions of core international crimes.

The EU Day Against Impunity aims to raise awareness of the most heinous crimes by promoting national investigations and prosecutions.

Updated: May 24, 2022, 12:54 PM