Proving war crimes isn't simple – a forensics expert explains what's involved with documenting human rights violations during conflicts, from Afghanistan to Ukraine

The United Nations reports that at least 5,237 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the Ukraine war – but other estimates place this figure at more than 10,000.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has started more than 16,000 investigations into suspected war crimes committed by Russians.

For me and my colleagues – who since 1998 have worked in securing forensic evidence of these types of crimes in Afghanistan, Guatemala and other places – it is apparent that identifying and collecting evidence of international crimes like killing civilians during conflict is beyond the capabilities and resources of local police crime scene teams, criminal investigators and prosecutors.

It’s also likely that the full extent of war crimes committed by both Ukraine and Russia won’t be investigated and possibly prosecuted until after the war finally ends.

This means that in the case of the Ukraine war, a new, unbiased judiciary and investigatory organization will likely need to be set up to handle the claims and questions about tens of thousands of victims on all sides. This will take decades of work and cost a large amount of money, requiring the support of rich countries.

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