ukraine discussion at RWI

On Ukraine: Insights from a Discussion Event

ukraine discussio Feb On the 21 February, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute helped organise a panel discussion following the expected military invasion of Ukraine from Russian troops. The initiative came from Giorgi Janjalashvili, a student of the LLM Human Rights programme that RWI brings together with Lund University’s Faculty of Law. The participants, online and offline, had the opportunity to engage in the discussion with panelists of various great academic and practical experiences.

The Discussion

Zuzana Zalanova, Director of Europe Office at RWI provided a comprehensive presentation on the context and background of the conflict, as well as exhausting gaps regarding the issue through questions. For her, raising awareness of the situation’s complex context is key to understanding important human rights challenges.

Dr. Myroslava Antonovych’s experience at the European Court of Human Rights, as well as her academic background in Ukraine, gave a unique opportunity to hear expert opinions regarding human rights violations from the domestic level.

Dr. Valentin Jeutner, Professor of Law at Lund University, expressed a relatively strong but well-structured opinion that even though self-defense is a legally ensured and indisputable right, it is still not the best way as a response to military attack, since defensive actions taken by armed forces do not necessarily resolve something, but rather escalate hostilities. Hence, he underlined the importance of diplomacy and international mechanisms to stop aggression.

Dr. Natia Müller, Professor of International Law in Georgia, framed a notable understanding of human rights during the armed conflict, which implies that human rights do not cease to apply under the jurisdiction of Geneva conventions.


The discussion provided a vital legal assessment that human rights are unconditionally applicable in all armed conflicts, since the competition on human rights applicability with the international humanitarian law is a caustic disputable issue.

Janjalashvili moderated and organised this event with the conviction that “Europe is under threat”. As a Georgian citizen, this situation of flagrant human rights violations and alleged war crimes was neither new nor unexpected for him.

“This is not solely a war on Ukraine. The response must be strong and adequate. Initially, there is the necessity to raise awareness on not only legal aspects but also even more important, contextual ones to get familiar with armed conflict”, Giorgi says.

When drawing conclusions about the discussion, Giorgi called for a united approach to protect international order:

“There are no legal instruments to bind dictatorship in Russia. International law cannot be solely standing without political support. Therefore, for ensuring effective mechanisms of international legal instruments, states should reveal their unconditional willingness to protect international legal principles, which are based on respecting other states’ political sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Daniel Luna, student, one of the participants, shares his insights about the discussion:

“The Ukraine panel discussion helped contextualise the current crisis. This included the historical relationship between Ukraine and Russia, Russia’s geostrategic interests in the region, and events leading to the current conjuncture. Russia’s current leadership has focused on Ukraine, listing post-Soviet irredentism and NATO and EU eastward expansion as reasons. These reasons do not justify the extent of their recent aggressiveness. Actions taken to effect this have only inflamed the situation, isolating the country. The discussion then took a legal turn by analyzing the idea of inter armas enim silent leges (among arms, the laws are silent).  The panel discussed the role of international law before and after peace fails. In sum, the discussion was very useful and informative.”

Zuzana Zalanova believes one should have has the civic responsibility to correctly inform themselves of the situation and how human rights issues like these are universally interconnected and do affect everyone.

“I decided to support the initiative as it reflects why we at RWI do what we do.  Our work is about finding ways to make the issues of human rights and international humanitarian law better understood and respected. Discussions like this one help do so very effectively – as we share perspectives on human rights issues in a real time.”

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