The ongoing Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has not only upended an era of perceived geopolitical stability in Europe, but has also created a humanitarian crisis of devastating proportions. The urgency of the situation has been met by an unprecedented activation of accountability mechanisms and initiatives, both at the international and national level, to address substantiated evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed within the conflict.

Thus far, the war has produced a massive catalog of blatant violations of international law, which, in light of the clouded information landscape of militarized conflict, almost certainly carries beneath it a “dark number” of undocumented abuses that is even larger. Beyond the international crime of aggression committed by the Russian regime in invading Ukraine, along with the direct torture and killing of Ukrainian civilians, accounts of sexual and gender-based violence – crimes that have historically been under-investigated within the context of war – continue to proliferate.

To address this situation, some crucial questions remain. How can legal authorities effectively coordinate in building cases while focusing their efforts on high-level perpetrators and the structural dimensions of the crimes committed? How can civil society critically engage with the ongoing investigations to ensure that survivor-centered approaches are adopted? What steps need to be taken to further advance international criminal justice as a whole, in order to avoid double standards and ensure that international crimes are also effectively prosecuted in other contexts?

In this dossier, we provide an overview of the international legal situation concerning criminal justice in the Russian-Ukrainian war, along with material that assesses various obstacles and pathways to the prosecution of war crimes and human rights violations arising from the conflict. With partners in Ukraine and other countries, ECCHR is currently pursuing several cases concerning Ukraine that are explained below. This site is intended to be continually under development and will be updated and expanded as more information becomes available.

ECCHR is currently involved in several cases, as well as open-source investigative collaborations, concerning international crimes committed in the war. In cooperation with our partners, our casework supports survivors in their efforts to pursue accountability for such crimes as conflict-related sexual violence, a deadly missile strike on civilian infrastructure, and the killing of Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius in the siege of Mariupol, among others.

In order to bridge the gap between legal expertise and the collection, analysis, and verification of digital evidence, ECCHR is working with partners Mnemonic/Ukrainian Archive and Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group on case-specific evidence reports from multiple media sources, with a particular focus on ensuring their evidentiary value in investigative proceedings.

Due to the restrictive circumstances of war-time conflict, both the gathering and the dissemination of information related to cases and investigations must contend with unique obstacles. Thus, our casework will be continually updated as information becomes both available and conveyable in light of changing events.

Investigating Russia’s War of Aggression against Ukraine

Online event from 09.02.2022

This panel explores how human rights organizations are engaging in the fight for justice regarding crimes committed within the war. With a particular focus on open-source investigations and strategic case building, the event examines existing approaches and obstacles to legally addressing these human rights abuses.

The panelists are: Maksym Rokmaniko (Director of the Center for Spatial Technologies in Kyiv); Nadia Volkova (Director of the Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group); Roksolana Burianenko (Project Manager of the Ukrainian Archive); Hannah Bagdasar (Lead Investigator with Bellingcat’s Global Authentication Project); and Arne Bardelle (Legal Advisor at ECCHR). Anne Schroeter (ECCHR’s Coordinator of the Investigative Commons) moderates the panel.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led to an unprecedented array of accountability initiatives for the crimes committed in this ongoing war of aggression.

The murder of Mantas Kvedaravičius

Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius was arrested by pro-Russian militias in 2022 during an attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol and was found murdered a few days later. ECCHR is now supporting Hanna Bilobrova, the filmmaker's fiancée, in her fight for justice and in the investigation of the murder by suspected pro-Russian militias.

Ukraine – War crimes – Mariupol

Case

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ECCHR

Ukraine: The case of Mantas Kvedaravičius

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Sexual violence by members of the Russian armed forces

A survivor is now calling for investigations in Germany: members of Russian armed forces allegedly first killed her husband and then raped her several times. In order to support the criminal prosecution already underway in Ukraine and to bring an end to the impunity of the perpetrators, the Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group (ULAG) and ECCHR jointly filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Public Prosecutor in June 2023.

Ukraine – Crimes against humanity – Sexual violence

Case

Torture of civilians, arbitrary killings, sexual violence – in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, evidence of international crimes committed by Russian soldiers continues to mount. A survivor is now calling for investigations in Germany.

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ECCHR

Despite a wide range of efforts by the Ukrainian government, civil society and the international community to pursue accountability fo crimes arising from the conflict, there remain significant questions as to how this should be achieved and how international criminal law can be strengthened.

Read our Q&A for a more detailed account of the international legal situation with regard to the Russian-Ukrainian war, along with ECCHR's position on these issues.

What investigations are underway at the national, regional and international level?

What is our perspective on current investigations into war crimes in Ukraine?

What steps must Ukraine take to strengthen international criminal law at the international level?

What steps must Ukraine take to strengthen international criminal law domestically?

What legislative steps must other countries take to advance accountability for crimes committed in Ukraine?

Why are some actors calling for the establishment of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression?

What problems do we see regarding proposals for a special tribunal solely for the crime of aggression? What other options are on the table to deliver justice?

What are the rights of victims who have fled to the European Union?

The overwhelming response by many Western countries to the call for the swift application of international criminal justice to address the human rights situation in Ukraine is clearly a welcome development.

However, it is nonetheless essential that any application of international justice avoids the pitfalls of double standards, i.e. of being applied in an uneven and disproportionate manner across the spectrum of severe conflicts in recent history (especially those involving Western states). The danger: double standards may only serve to weaken institutions of international law in the long run.

Statements

Single View Press

Here you find ECCHR’s press contact and current press releases.

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Single View Press

Here you find ECCHR’s press contact and current press releases.

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Media

Wolfgang Kaleck, DER SPIEGEL | 09. Jul 2022

Kommt Putin vor Gericht? ECCHR-Chef Wolfgang Kaleck über die internationale Strafjustiz

Seit Russlands Angriff auf die Ukraine erfährt das Völkerstrafrecht besondere Aufmerksamkeit. Das ist eine gute Nachricht für die Menschenrechte. Die schlechte: Der Westen selbst hat das Recht zuletzt unglaubwürdig gemacht.

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medico international

Haftbefehl gegen Putin - Es trifft nicht den Falschen - medico international

Wolfgang Kaleck spricht im Interview darüber, warum es keine "Gleichheit im Unrecht" geben darf, westliche Doppelstandards aber trotzdem das Völkerstrafrecht untergraben.

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A guest commentary by Andreas Schüller (only in German), published in Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegung https://35.JG. Heft 2.2022

What are the implications of the war in Ukraine for international criminal justice?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was followed by a multi-layered response, primarily from Western states. Activation of international criminal justice was one of the key issues in response to Russian violations of international law. Implementation now presents both opportunities and risks. International criminal justice can emerge stronger from the international law crisis through stronger practice and improved coordination of investigations. But it can also be weakened in the long term if application practices remain one-sided with respect to Ukraine and beyond, and double standards are more entrenched than ever by powerful states.

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Discussions

Accountability for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine: An Immediate Call to Reform the ICC’s Jurisdiction

Two years have passed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine – an act of aggression which 141 states of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) condemned as such shortly after. This crime of aggression has brought unimaginable suffering to the people of Ukraine. As this blog will highlight in the following, a reform of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) concerning the crime of aggression is necessary and long overdue. The current jurisdictional regime leaves accountability gaps, which have become painfully visible in the past two years. Plausible suggestions for the reform are already out there – it ultimately “all depends on the political will” of the 124 ICC state parties.

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Kriegsverbrechen im Ukrainekrieg: Möglichkeiten der Strafverfolgung – Veranstaltungsmittschnitt

In der Online-Veranstaltung am 15.09.2022 sprachen wir mit den beiden Expert*innen Nadia Volkova und Andreas Schüller über die Möglichkeiten der Strafverfolg...

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What can(’t) international criminal justice deliver for Ukraine?

One year ago, Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, committing an act of aggression in violation of the UN Charter. Many more incidents of international crimes followed, adding to an already large number of unaddressed crimes going back to 2014. While investigations are underway, the failures to pursue accountability for international crimes committed by Russia in the past still need to be addressed in this context.

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