Overview by Emma Bakkum, Research Associate PILPG-NL
Dariya Svyrydova, Lawyer, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Sergiy Zayets, Lawyer, Regional Center for Human Rights
Pavel Dykan, Advocacy Advisory Panel (Euromaidan victims legal representative)
Markiyan Halabala, Advocacy Advisory Panel (Euromaidan victims legal representative)
Oleksandra Matviychuk, Center for Civil Liberties (Euromaidan SOS), The Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas”
Simon Papuashvili, Project Manager at the International Partnership for Human Rights
Roman Romanov, Human Rights and Justice Program Initiative Director at the International Renaissance Foundation
Difficulties related to investigating and documenting crimes in Ukraine remain.
CSOs urge the ICC to act upon the evidence communicated to it and to break the current cycle of impunity in Ukraine.
Challenges for ICC prosecution include time and resource constraints and issues of transparency. States should provide the ICC with the budget it needs to deal with justice requests and its workload, according to Simon Papuashvili.
Ukrainian and international civil society organizations (CSOs) have been documenting gross human rights violations and international crimes committed in Ukraine since 2014. To end impunity for these crimes, several CSOs have shared their collected evidence with the ICCs OTP under Article 15 of the Rome Statute. CSOs urge the ICC to act upon this evidence and to break the current cycle of impunity in Ukraine.
Different NGO representatives highlighted documentation of crimes committed during the Maidan protest, in Eastern Ukraine, and in Crimea. Pavel Dykan mentioned crimes against humanity committed by Yanukovich and government officials during the Maidan protest. He and a representative of the General Prosecutors Office of Ukraine presented evidence suggesting that counteractions taken against protesters were planned, systematic, and orchestrated by a high-level organization. Oleksandra Matviychuk presented documentation of crimes in Eastern Ukraine, such as widespread and systematic persecution, forced labor, torture and ill-treatment, and illegal detainment. Lastly, several NGOs shared documented crimes committed in Crimea, in particular crimes regarding colonization (displacement or transfer to or from the occupied territory).
Simon Papuashvili then discussed a range of challenges ICC prosecution efforts face, including time and resource constraints and issues of transparency. One of the action points for the ICC following these challenges is that the ICC should act timely, as opposed to the situation in Georgia. The ICC budget also has to be revised in accordance with the ever-increasing workload of the Court. States should provide the ICC with the budget it needs to deal with justice requests and its workload. States should not use budgetary discussion as a political tool, which Russia recently did. Moreover, the OTP should seek a higher level of transparency. Civil society can play a role here, namely by actively seeking communication with the ICC and exchanging information with local representatives.
Several issues were raised by the audience, including difficulties related to investigating crimes committed on territory which is not within the control of the Ukrainian government. Other difficulties are related to gathering evidence of Russia’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine and to the question of ICC’s jurisdiction over Ukrainian territory.
Lastly, a comparison to the situation in Georgia was made. It was suggested that CSOs and member states should consider a regional strategy in order to pursue investigations and arrest warrants, especially because of the recent statements made by Russia. Furthermore, CSOs should think about what can be done locally to keep people from losing their hope for justice. National capacity is available in Ukraine but it is difficult to reach as investigation authorities can barely access certain areas. The representative of the General Prosecutors Office of Ukraine added that Ukraine is not able to implement arrest warrants for those responsible for crimes committed at the Maidan protests that fled to Russia. Regarding Crimea, he stated that investigating is difficult: only open sources or witnesses and victims who left Crimea are available. Therefore, Ukrainian CSOs urge for ICC investigation into Ukraine.