Dutch ministers have expressed their horror at the killing of Ukrainian civilians by retreating Russian troops in the town of Bucha earlier this week, and called for a full investigation.
Reports suggest over 400 bodies, some with their hands tied behind their backs, were found in the Kyiv suburb, according to figures from the Ukrainian prosecution office. Some 280 bodies were said to be buried in a mass grave in the town.
The reports of war crimes have to be documented and the Netherlands and its allies ‘will not rest until the perpetrators can be held responsible’, prime minister Mark Rutte said.
Foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra said the Netherlands is supporting ‘ongoing investigations’ on the ground.
The killing of innocent Ukrainian civilians in Bucha is shocking and unbearably sad. Those responsible for war crimes will be held to account. The Netherlands supports the gathering of evidence on the ground, as well as the ongoing investigations by the ICC & OHCHR.
— Wopke Hoekstra (@WBHoekstra) April 3, 2022
The Volkskrant said in an analysis that, although government leaders are calling for an investigation into ‘alleged’ war crimes, there is ‘really no doubt that they have taken place’.
But evidence gathering is crucial and if a prosecutor wants to prove Russia has violated the rules of war, eye witness accounts are crucial, lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops who works for the International Criminal Court in The Hague told broadcaster NOS.
‘In court all other scenarios have to be excluded, and for that you need people to testify to what they saw,’ Knoops told the broadcaster.
Evidence is already being gathered on the ground by the court and human rights organisation Human Rights Watch, which is trying to talk to as many people as possible who may have witnessed the atrocities in Bucha.
New sanctions against Russia are also in the making, European leaders said at the weekend. The Baltic states are now boycotting Russian gas and the German defense minister has said the rest of Europe has to at least discuss the possibility of doing the same.
Nevertheless, the Volkskrant said in an editorial, the Dutch cabinet has so far postponed taking ‘real measures and real sacrifices’.
‘These terrible crimes are still partly financed by the Netherlands, through the continuous purchase of Russian oil and gas,’ the paper said. Arguments put forward by climate minister Rob Jetten, that the Netherlands can only do this as part of a European block are ‘nonsense’, the Volkskrant said.
‘On Saturday, the cabinet started a public campaign to make consumers use less gas,’ the paper said. ‘We should reduce the central heating to 19 Celsius and take shorter showers. But industry can continue to do what it always does… it is time for the government to take action too.’
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