Forensic investigators remove an exhumed body from what is believed to be a mass grave on October 11, 2022 in Lyman, Donetsk oblast, Ukraine.
Forensic investigators remove an exhumed body from what is believed to be a mass grave on October 11, 2022 in Lyman, Donetsk oblast, Ukraine. © Carl Court/Getty Images

Covering War Crimes in Ukraine

IWPR reporting project provides unique insight and access to historic opportunity to see justice done for wartime atrocities.

Tuesday, 25 April, 2023
IWPR

IWPR

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

IWPR’s Justice Report is providing unique and in-depth coverage of ongoing and unprecedented efforts to see those responsible for war crimes in Ukraine brought to trial.

Within Ukraine, the prosecutor general’s office is investigating tens of thousands of war crimes, with many cases already in progress. Elsewhere, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, with ambitious efforts underway to hold other senior figures accountable.

While this is a historic opportunity to see justice done for wartime atrocities, the scale and complexity also presents a huge challenge for media coverage.

To answer this need, IWPR’s detailed and specialised reporting provides balanced, accurate and reliable insight into the intricacies of this process, key to ensuring public understanding of procedural and legal issues.

Sir Geoffrey Nice, the British barrister who led the prosecution against Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), described this as “critical” in ensuring justice.

In an op-ed for the Justice Report, he stressed the importance of “focused reporting on court and justice processes.

“The devil is in the detail, however drawn out and arcane, so consistently pursuing an extended trial is important to facilitate public understanding of its result. But the media also has the essential role of holding courts and other processes to account. Justice itself deserves to be tested and questioned – appropriately and legally – and media’s role is essential here.”

Since its launch in July 2022, the weekly Justice Report newsletter has published hundreds of features, interviews, videos and op-eds from Ukrainian and international experts.

Contributors have included Beth Van Schaack, US state department Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice and Yuriy Byelousov, who heads the war crimes department in the prosecutor general’s office.

The project builds on IWPR’s decades-long experience in reporting on international justice issues, in particular covering the proceedings of the ICTY and ICC, and IWPR’s dedicated court reporter attend trials and gathers first-hand information on hearings.

Articles have explored the complexities of prosecuting sexual violence in Ukraine and innovations such as the mobile war crimes investigation teams are collecting evidence across the country to bring perpetrators to justice.

One multimedia piece looked at the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia – the basis of the ICC arrest warrant for Putin – while another reported on how the Ukrainian police were meeting the new challenge of investigating war crimes.

“These materials are now in demand by the professional community and the general public,” said Olena Osmolovska, chief executive officer of Yurydychna Gazeta, one of Ukraine’s leading legal publications which has re-published several Justice Report articles.

“National media do not cover this topic enough due to lack of resources.”

Iryna Skosar, associate professor at the department of international law at Odesa university’s Law Academy said that the Justice Report was “extremely relevant for western audiences, both professional and the general public… [and] a source of factual information and analysis.”

“For society, information only about recorded facts is not enough to convey a sense of restored justice, [people] must see a fair trial against those who commit the [crimes],” Ukrainian lawyer Anna Vyshniakova told IWPR. “So the few cases where war criminals are in the dock should be covered as much as possible in the media.”

The project is also supporting and developing a network of Ukrainian justice reporters. and incubating a long-term information resource and archive.

Anya Neistat, legal director of the Docket Initiative at the Clooney Foundation for Justice, warned in an op-ed for the project that “as the stories from Ukraine fade from the front pages and from the minds of everyone but those dealing first hand with the devastating impact of war, there is a risk that the appetite for accountability would start fading too.”

“It is necessary to maintain public attention,” she added, “keep the faith of survivors and increase the deterrent effect of the proceedings on current and future perpetrators.”

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