Perspectives towards a greater accountability for the war atrocities in Ukraine

One year ago, on 24 February 2022, the Russian Federation launched a full-scale military offensive in Ukraine. We express our full solidarity with Ukraine and its people fighting for the freedom and dignity. We also condemn Russia’s armed aggression. It does not only violate the UN Charter but also international law including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. We are constantly reminded that the full-scale invasion continues with considerable losses of lives and gross violations of human rights.

The current situation is unprecedented in many ways. We would like to present a couple of perspectives prepared by our affiliated researchers over the year that examine what could be done to put an end of the suffering and ensure accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

What can be investigated and by whom?

Despite multiple resolutions of the UN Security Council condemning the invasion and calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops and Russian-backed armed groups, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine continues to be violated. Dan Kuwali, RWI Affiliated Professor, has examined what could be done from a legal perspective to ensure accountability for international wrongs. Read the article here.

Despite investigation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other actors, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law following the invasion continue to be underdocumented. Monyneath Men, a former RWI colleague, examines how to determine whether the ICC has jurisdiction over the situation and in what cases it may exercise it. Read the article here.

Legal analysis presented by Dan Kuwali shows that Russia’s attack against its neighbour is a manifest violation of the principle of prohibition of the use of force under Article 2(4) of the UN Charter: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations”. Dan Kuwali also argues that the military intervention appears to meet the definition of aggression, a crime under the Rome Statute of the ICC. Read the article here.

Still, investigation can be challenged by multiple factors. As argued by John Cerone, RWI Affiliated Professor,  Visiting Professor of International Law, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), there are several considerations to bear in mind when determining who and what can be targeted under international humanitarian law. Read the article here.

Another consideration relates to the claims of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other international crimes that are often used in references to the war in Ukraine. Another article by John Cerone looks into what these crimes entail and how to differentiate between them. Read the article here.

In investigation of war crimes, trials identify victims and perpetrators, detail facts and responsibilities and establish individual responsibility for atrocities. Lyal S. Sunga, RWI Affiliated Professor, also discusses whether war crimes trials in Ukraine might help convince the Russian public to stop supporting the war. Read the article here.

Finally, the distinction between war crimes and crimes against humanity also needs to be understood in a historical perspective and through the interaction between human rights and international humanitarian law in armed conflict. Mark Klamberg, Professor and Head of Subject for Public International Law at Stockholm University, and a Board Member at RWI, and Sally Longworth, a doctoral candidate at Stockholm University, present these perspectives in a webinar moderated by Anders Mildner, Altitude Meetings. Watch the recording here.

The views and opinions expressed in these guidelines are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of RWI.

Alex Fedorenko/Unsplash

Featured image: Margarita Marushevska/Unsplash

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