“A War Crimes Tribunal for Ukraine? – Observation, Documentation and Analysis of Violations of Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law on the Territory of Ukraine”
Project manager: Cindy Wittke
Project editors: Oksana Senatorova, Kateryna Busol (till February 2023), Tetyana Malyarenko (till October 2022)
Project duration: 2022—2023
Funding: VolkswagenFoundation Fellowship Programme for Researchers from Ukraine
Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has caused tremendous human suffering, subverted the pillars of the established rule-based order and undermined regional and international security. These developments are intrinsically connected with the lack of concerted international response to Russia’s initial aggression against Ukraine, manifested in the occupation of Crimea and hostilities in Donbas since 2014.
Given the described dynamics, the researchers, whose expertise encompasses the diverse yet mutually complementary areas of international law, political science, and conflict resolution, defined a three-fold purpose for this project. First, to analyse the rapidly changing nature of the armed conflict and accompanying violations and propose different peace and justice responses. The project investigates how such responses should vary for allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Of a particular focus is the intersection of accountability options for the three mentioned atrocity crimes and for what the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal called the “supreme international crime” that “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” – the crime of aggression. Second, the project connects violations perpetrated in 2014-2021 and since the full-scale invasion and, in doing so, ensures a more holistic discussion of justice avenues for Ukraine. Finally, the project presents all its accountability analyses and proposals through an intrinsically survivor-centric lens.
Within the defined framework, the project researchers have analysed the following narrow issues:
- The changing nature of Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine and the qualification of alleged violations as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide;
- The challenges of documenting and prosecuting atrocity crimes perpetrated in Ukraine;
- The role of victims in a prospective aggression tribunal;
- The deportation of Ukrainian children as stand-alone international crime and as an indication of Russia’s alleged genocidal intent;
- Conflict-related sexual violence and the gendered dimensions of atrocity crimes amid Russia’s aggression and justice responses to them;
- The evolution of Ukraine’s lawfare and how it should be expanded to include more transitional justice initiatives.
- Russian policy towards the economy of occupied Ukrainian territories: crawling de-modernization
The researchers have presented their findings at numerous academic events internationally. They have also shared their academic analyses with Ukrainian investigators, prosecutors, judges, Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (e.g. Special Report) and other Ukrainian and international governmental and non-governmental actors to enhance the justice response to atrocities committed amid Russia’s aggression. The researchers communicated directly with victims of international crimes and participated in civil society activities aimed at gathering information on evidence of such crimes and developing future reparation programmes for their victims.