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Prosecutors asked to probe attack on Swiss journalist in Ukraine

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A rights group has asked Switzerland to investigate an alleged attack on a Swiss photojournalist by Russian troops in Ukraine earlier this year, prosecutors confirmed Friday.

Ukrainian NGO Truth Hounds has asked Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General to probe an attack on Swiss freelance journalist Guillaume Briquet in southern Ukraine in March as a possible war crime, according to the Swiss-based Civitas Maxima group that helped it file the complaint.

Photojournalist Guillaume Briquet (Twitter)
Photojournalist Guillaume Briquet (Twitter)

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The OAG confirmed to AFP that it had received the complaint, which it said would “now be examined according to usual procedure.”

“This is the first criminal complaint received in this context,” it said, stressing that receiving a complaint did not automatically mean it would launch an investigation.

Briquet was injured in the head and arms when his car, which had Geneva plates and PRESS written on both sides, was ambushed by Russian troops near Mykolaiv on March 6, according to Civitas Maxima.

Truth Hounds legal director Dmytro Koval told the RTS broadcaster that the group, which has been documenting war crimes in Ukraine since 2014, had been able to identify the Russian unit that probably opened fire on Briquet’s car.

Civitas Maxima, which provides legal representation for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, suggested the journalist had been intentionally targeted.

“Mr. Briquet believes that the reason the press is being targeted is to intimidate journalists not to report on the conflict,” it said in a statement.

Since launching its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Russian military has frequently been accused of deliberately targeting journalists who clearly identify as media workers.

At least a dozen journalists have been killed in the past six months of conflict, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Koval highlighted that Ukraine was struggling to investigate towering numbers of alleged war crimes, and needed help from other countries.

“No country is capable of dealing with such a large number of war crimes that are currently suspected in Ukraine,” he said in the statement.

“It is extremely important to involve in the investigations those states that have a jurisdictional connection with such crimes, or can prompt the principle of universal jurisdiction over them.”

Swiss prosecutors have formed a taskforce to collect evidence of suspected war crimes committed in Ukraine from refugees arriving in Switzerland.

The OAG stressed that it could only itself prosecute perpetrators of international crimes if they were in Switzerland.

But said it was securing any evidence it received of such crimes to pass on to the International Criminal Court in The Hague or to ensure criminal proceedings could be opened quickly if the suspected perpetrators entered Swiss territory.

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