Members of Ukraine.5am Coalition discuss crimes, committed during the armed conflict in Ukraine. They suggest how these cases could strength International Justice
During the Twenty-First Session of the International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties human rights` experts from the Ukraine.5 am Coalition hold the side-event Strengthening International Justice: Challenges and Opportunities in Case of Ukraine.
This is the only event during the International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties that included a discussion about different types of war crimes committed during the armed conflict in Ukraine. The event was moderated by Roman Romanov, Human Rights and Justice Program Director at International Renaissance Foundation.
Olga Reshetylova, co-founder of the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR), mentioned that MIHR has been dealing with different types of war crimes and crimes against humanity since 2016. MIHR focuses on enforced disappearances and prisoners of war captivity. MIHR`s investigators try to identify all the circumstances of the crime and the perpetrators.
“After the liberation of northern regions of Ukraine, we found out that there were hundreds of people who were detained by Russian soldiers, and we didn’t know what happened to them. We have started to look for them and identified that many of them were transferred to Russian prisons and detention facilities via Belarus. Therefore, Belarussian government is deeply involved in the commitment of all those crimes. We are talking about more than four hundred people only from the Kyiv region. There are a lot of people we know nothing what had happened to them”- she explained.
Reshetylova added that Russia has not provided any information about those people. MIHR has gotten a couple responses for its requests from the Minister of defense of the Russian Federation. “We read that those civilians were detained because they interfered with the special military operation of the Russian Federation in Ukraine. I do not think Russian legislation has any norms regarding “interfering in the special military operation in this sovereign country”- Ohla mentioned.
Human rights experts documented more than ten thousand prisoners of war and detained civilians that have been kept in the Russian Federation and on occupied territories. Thousands of them are Ukrainian women. “We know that they have been tortured. That they are kept in inhumane conditions. When we are talking about the captivity of female prisoners, we are talking not only about sexual violence. We are talking about the very special needs of women. For example, hygenic products. We have pregnant or breastfeeding women in Russian captivity. We have separation women and their children” – she said.
World media wrote about the woman who tried to flee from Mariupol during the blockade with her four-year-old daughter and was detained at the checkpoint for the filtration. She had to give her daughter to unknown people. She spent six months in captivity and all this time she didn’t know what happened to her daughter. “And there are a lot of similar cases. Women don’t know what happened to their children and children don’t know what happened to their mothers” – she finalized.
Roman Avramenko from Truth Hounds said that the organization has been involved in the documentation of international crimes since 2014. Experts have visited each settlement along the conflict line in the eastern part of Ukraine. The last mission just has ended. Team visited the newly liberated areas. Experts visited seven settlements. They`ve identified and thoroughly documented nine types of war crimes committed on the territory. It includes attacks on Ukrainian cultural heritage; attacks on civilians, including an attack on the evacuation bus with the anti-tank missile; illegal imprisonment, torture, and killing of civilians; using civilians as human shields; indiscriminate attacks on civilian`s infostructure; placing artillery in center of the settlements; sexual and gender-based violence.
Natalia Okhotnikova from Human Rights Centre ZMINA explained that their efforts focus on documenting crimes against activists, journalists, volunteers, just civilians with pro-Ukrainian positions, specifically in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia region that was occupied at the very beginning. “We`ve collected information about 386 cases of enforced disappearance of civilians, journalists, representatives of local authorities, even drivers who provided any kind of humanitarian aid” – Okhotnikova added.
Nadia Volkova from Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group said that with the full-scale invasion organization has added a couple new activities to the portfolio. It focuses on children’s rights. “We`ve started working on two cases, we are representing the victims. Two kids were separated with their parents during filtration stages when families try to leave Mariupol. And in both cases, they were taken to the Russian Federation where children were put under the influence of the Russian authorities. They are telling them that kids have no family anymore and they can`t go back to Ukraine. Kids were reunited with their families. We are not sure what we’re going to do with these cases. One family is open to talk about this, the other has not decided regarding the prospects of justice” – Volkova explained.
Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group as well has added sexual and gender-based violence to the portfolio. “One case is going through the trial stage in Ukraine now. It`s woman from Brovary region. Her husband was shot. She was raped by two men in her house while the four-year-old son was hiding in the closet. We have been seeing many deficiencies during the investigation. That’s why we’re looking at universal jurisdiction since the victim is currently in Germany. We also are working on building the capacity of the coalition in terms of documenting digital evidence since it can be used widely”- she added.
Ukraine 5 Am Coalition
The Coalition bears the name 5 AM as it was 5 o’clock in the morning when Ukrainians across the country awoke to the sound of explosions on February 24. Its aim is to document, investigate, and prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities during full scale Russian invasion.
The Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR)
MIHR is a media team that investigates war crimes committed in connection with Russian aggression in Ukraine; analyzes Russian military practices and provides recommendations for Ukrainian government and international community; advocates for changes in government policies and social practices regarding the provision and observance of human rights and freedoms.