Ukraine Justice Report

IWPR project will document long, painful and essential journey to bring Russia’s military impunity to an end.

Ukraine Justice Report

IWPR project will document long, painful and essential journey to bring Russia’s military impunity to an end.

Family members mourn the death of Ruslan Nechyporenko, 47, after his funeral on April 18, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. His body was found in Bucha after Russian soldiers withdrew weeks before, one of at least 700 murdered civilians found in towns around Kiev, according to authorities. The slayings launched investigations for possible war crimes perpetuated by Russian forces during the occupation.
Family members mourn the death of Ruslan Nechyporenko, 47, after his funeral on April 18, 2022 in Bucha, Ukraine. His body was found in Bucha after Russian soldiers withdrew weeks before, one of at least 700 murdered civilians found in towns around Kiev, according to authorities. The slayings launched investigations for possible war crimes perpetuated by Russian forces during the occupation. © John Moore/Getty Images
Tuesday, 2 August, 2022

When sappers carted two decaying bodies from the front yard of the suburban home we had stopped at in Hostomel, they slung them in black bags into their white transit vehicle on top of ten others.
 
At our next stop, on the main street in Borodyanka, Julia with her three children told us up to two dozen bodies lay buried under the rubble of the demolished apartment block before us, with countless more in the village’s 60-odd other shelled residential buildings.
 
As we drove back to Kyiv, two bicyclists flagged us down to show us the rotting body of an aid worker lying in the verge and point out the burned-out carcass of a small van nearby, with the bodies of three more volunteers.
 
Each of these individuals were civilians. Almost certainly, each of these deaths is a war crime. Each soul, each family, deserves justice.
 
Ukraine has been intimately connected with war crimes and international justice. As author and international lawyer Philippe Sands has written, the key legal definitions of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” have their origins in Lviv, where the authors of both terms studied law.
 
Ukraine is once again compelled to suffer and play a critical role in the forging of international law. The crimes are there, the work is there, and most of it will be done by Ukrainians. The challenge, as put by President Volodymyr Zelensky, is to “rescue international law”, to determine after such violence whether “international law will exist”.
 
But can justice be delivered, and if so, how? Against such chaos, can law make a difference? With such challenges, what will justice for Ukraine look like?
 
Today IWPR launches Ukraine Justice Report to chart this long, painful and essential journey. Russia’s cycle of military impunity has gone on for too long, and it is critical for Ukraine, for its victims and for wars past and future, that it be brought to an end.
 
This project builds on IWPR’s own past, particularly our Tribunal Update, which covered the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for more than a decade, as well as our reporting on the International Criminal Tribunal (ICC) and other justice mechanisms.
 
To reveal – and to sustain support for – extended and complex judicial processes, we recognise the importance of transparency, of accuracy and of sustained, detailed reporting. There is no short-cut to justice, nor to the reporting of it.
 
With support from the British Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, the project also builds on our ongoing Ukraine Voices programme – supporting courageous Ukrainian media and other independent voices to report from the frontlines, providing funding and security training, flak jackets and publishing and learning opportunities.
 
In a significant initiative, through the Reckoning Project, supported by USAID/Chemonics, we are supporting a network of trained investigators documenting, verifying and archiving war crimes to build cases with international justice mechanisms. 

Ukraine Justice Report will cover the array of processes in place and emerging. The crimes are ongoing every day, their scale and complexity fundamental challenges, but the institutions themselves are also complex.
 
There are national courts and the Ukraine prosecutor general’s office, currently facing significant transition and turmoil, as well as Ukrainian investigative bodies.
 
There is the permanent ICC, focusing on a small number of cases and building up its Ukraine teams. There could be a new “hybrid” tribunal to provide sustainable support for broad investigations, or a special court of aggression for Russian leaders, as proposed by Zelensky.
 
Add to this are potential universal jurisdiction cases abroad and a wide range of civic participants, not least the Ukraine human rights movement itself, straining to collect evidence, and develop creative, strategic thinking. And add to this an army of international advisors, trainers and mentors.
 
Amid this, the primary public step of the 45-nation accountability conference recently held in The Hague was to establish a dialogue group to support coordination and communication. It could be critical, but no clarity has yet emerged.
 
From seeing Russian leadership in the dock to attending the sentencing of your child’s murderer, every Ukrainian – every supporter of human rights – will have a different vision of what Ukrainian justice should look like. Our task is to help Ukraine document that vital and solemn journey. 

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