Parliamentary Committee Notes: War Crimes
- Canada is aware of and deeply disturbed by the serious allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed as part of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
- The RCMP, along with its federal partners under the War Crimes Program – the Department of Justice, the Canada Border Services Agency, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada - are committed to ensuring allegations of such crimes in Ukraine are documented, and investigated. Canada will take appropriate measures to ensure that those proven to be involved in these crimes are held accountable for their actions.
- The RCMP is the only police service in Canada that can investigate such crimes. Under the purview of the War Crimes Program, the RCMP has launched a national structural investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine. It is vital that information and evidence be collected properly and at the earliest opportunity, to secure it for future criminal investigations and prosecutions, and that it is not affected by the passage of time.
- A Ukraine conflict website has been launched to provide Ukrainians entering Canada with information about this national investigation and how they can share information. Information is also available at Canada's main ports of entry by air, and through non-governmental organizations and community groups providing assistance to Ukrainians.
- Internationally, the RCMP is working closely with foreign partners who are also collecting and documenting information and evidence to assist in potential future prosecutions of alleged war crimes being committed in Ukraine. This is a global effort to bring justice to the victims of these heinous crimes.
Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes (CAHWC) Program is a partnership between the Department of Justice (DoJ), the RCMP, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to oversee the detection, investigation, prosecution and implementation of penalties against individuals living in Canada involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The Program’s focus includes preventing war criminals from entering Canada, removal and revocation of citizenship of war criminals in Canada, and criminal prosecution when appropriate. The CAHWC Program supports Canada’s policy to: deny safe haven to suspected perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide; contribute to the domestic and international fight against impunity; and reflect the government’s commitment to international justice, respect for human rights, and strengthened border security.
As part of Canada’s War Crimes Program, the RCMP is leading a structural investigation into suspected war crimes/crimes against humanity committed in the Ukraine, which aims at cataloguing crimes that have occurred and identifying victims, witnesses, or suspects present in the investigating state for possible future proceedings. A structural investigation is opened where there is evidence that a crime has taken place but potential perpetrators have not yet been identified, with an end goal to prepare for criminal accountability, once an allegation is made or uncovered. This investigation is expected to be a long-term effort, and will be resource intensive.
In support of the Structural Investigation, a public-facing initiative is being coordinated among partners to engage with Ukrainians who will be entering Canada in the coming weeks and months, as well as other individuals with a Canadian nexus who may have been a victim of, witnessed, or having information about alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed as part of the Ukraine-Russian conflict. It is extremely important that any such information be provided to the RCMP, as opposed to other police services, organizations or NGOs, so that possible evidence can be properly gathered and safeguarded so as not to jeopardize future investigations and prosecutions. For those entering the country, speaking with the RCMP is voluntary. Any person entering Canada, or who has already entered Canada can contact the RCMP by visiting the dedicated Ukraine conflict website.
The RCMP conducts its investigations in strict accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and within the authorities granted through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, and the Criminal Code. The independence of law enforcement is fully respected throughout all investigations. The RCMP is not in a position to provide specific details of any investigation it has undertaken with respect to suspected war crimes carried out in Ukraine. Releasing information risks affecting potential witness testimony, can violate the rights of the those being investigated, and even the safety of the victims. This can have a negative impact on legal proceedings and ultimately the pursuit of justice in relation to these reprehensible crimes.
In light of the ongoing and evolving Ukraine-Russia conflict, law enforcement entities worldwide are working to document information and evidence to assist in potential future prosecutions of alleged war crimes being committed in Ukraine. The RCMP is an active member of the Genocide Network Secretariat, which is coordinating international cooperation with respect to Russia/Ukraine.
In addition to the War Crime Program, Canada supports the efforts of the International Criminal Court. Established in 2002, the ICC may investigate and prosecute allegations of crimes against humanity, war crimes and/or genocide in countries that are either unable or unwilling to conduct and prosecute these crimes themselves. The ICC traditionally only prosecutes persons who held a military command or a head of state level position.
The Canadian Police Arrangement is a partnership between the RCMP, Public Safety Canada and Global Affairs Canada that is responsible for deploying Canadian police officers and civilian experts to international peacekeeping and peace operations missions, including providing personnel to support the International Criminal Court in its work. The goal of the CPA is to support the Government of Canada’s commitments to build a more secure world through Canadian police participation in international peacekeeping and peace support operations.
The RCMP, by way of the International Peace Operations Program and the Canadian Police Arrangement, do at times deploy Canadian police officers to the ICC. Police officers are generally deployed to the ICC at the specific request of the Court. The work undertaken by police officers and civilian experts at the ICC is strictly under the authority of the Court, which fervently guards its judicial independence. Currently, there are six Canadian police officers (3 from RCMP and 3 from partner agencies) and two civilian analysts identified to deploy to the ICC, to join the Canadian police officers who are already at the ICC. The ICC commitment is separate and distinct from any domestic engagement under Canada’s War Crimes Program.
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