Ukraine’s Civil Society Speaks at PACE on Restoring Justice in Donbas

Restoring Justice in the Donbas. Application of International Mechanisms for Ensuring Human Rights in the East of Ukraine in the Context of Armed Conflict.

On January 24th, the International Renaissance Foundation, Ukrainian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Centre of Policy and Legal Reform held a side event during the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The side event «Restoring Justice in the Donbas. Application of International Mechanisms for Ensuring Human Rights in the East of Ukraine in the Context of Armed Conflict» gathered 30 people – representatives of foreign delegations, Ukrainian MPs, Ukrainian Permanent Representatives in PACE, as well as journalists.

Key remarks from the round table discussion:

Andriy Senchenko, Head of the human rights organization “Sila Prava”:

«Damages caused by the Russian aggression and occupation to 2 million people – soldiers and their families, IDPs,  and those who lost their families and property on the occupied territories – exceed 90 million Euro when calculated based on European Court of Human Rights case law.  

A judicial practice, which is based on the concept of functional immunity of the State and is recognized by the countries of general and continental law, has been formed. In the courts of 22 regions of Ukraine there have been more than 200 positive decisions, which established the legal fact of causing damage to citizens of Ukraine.

Moreover, these decisions determined the guilty party and specified the evidence of armed aggression, occupation, war crimes and violations of human rights. In all cases, the Russian Federation is recognized as a party to proceedings.»

Roman Kuybida, Deputy Head of the Board of the Centre of  Policy and Legal Reform, judicial reform expert:

«Some of the hardest challenges for Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression include access to justice for people affected by the hybrid war, as well as investigation of violent crimes and prosecution of perpetrators. 

These challenges are complicated by the shortage of human resources and excessive workload of judges, prosecutors, and investigators as well as by partiality of a lot of judges due to their family or property links on the occupied territories.

There are two key possible developments: in case of continuing aggression the military courts or war crimes courts could be established and in case of deoccupation the court(s) for crimes related to armed conflict with the involvement of international experts with relevant experience as lay judges, international investigation and prosecution teams could be established. The second option is more desirable for Ukraine. Its implementation will be possible if international organisations including Council of Europe provide necessary support for Ukraine.» 

Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Executive Director:

«Ukrainian national mechanisms for the protection of human rights in the conditions of armed conflict caused by the Russian Federation in the east of Ukraine are insufficient and the use of international mechanisms is an opportunity to restore violated rights and to strengthen on national level the protection of human rights.

Within the framework of international humanitarian law, the possibility to address with submissions the International Criminal Court permits to collect and register the facts that are considered as  the  war crimes and crimes against humanity. The mechanism of universal jurisdiction provides us with opportunity to bring to the individual criminal liability those responsible for serious human rights violations in the east of Ukraine and in the occupied Crimea.

The European Court of Human Rights and the indicative character of its decisions should become an instrument that will define responsible State and limits of responsibility in each declared case of the human rights violation in Eastern Ukraine. As of today there are 400 of such cases.»


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