On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, marking an unprecedented escalation in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war that began in 2014. The full-scale invasion has led to tens of thousands of civilian casualties. The invasion has not only deepened the humanitarian crisis, with approximately 3.7 million Ukrainians displaced internally and another 6.3 million seeking refuge abroad as of January 2024, but it has also seen Russian forces targeting civilians and infrastructure, exacerbating the harm to civilian life.

Amidst the conflict, Ukrainian authorities are determined to pursue war crimes cases within their jurisdiction, presenting a unique challenge to the international justice system. Despite substantial global support, significant gaps remain, especially in prosecuting high level perpetrators and integrating survivors. The International Criminal Court (ICC) and other international instruments have demonstrated their willingness to complement the accountability efforts, but their scope remains limited. Documenting, investigating, and seeking accountability for these violations through various complementary avenues is crucial.

What are our activities related to Ukraine?

Our initiative aims to bridge some of these gaps in combating impunity for crimes committed within the context of the Ukraine invasion. We leverage tools such as universal and extraterritorial jurisdiction for strategic litigation, offering survivors alternative avenues for justice outside Ukraine. Strategically using litigation to identify countries where extraterritorial jurisdiction can be pursued is crucial for achieving accountability and complementing the efforts of the national authorities, which are primarily responsible for the prosecution of crimes on their territory.

We recognize that individuals responsible for severe violations against civilians in Ukraine often have histories of similar offenses in other conflicts, such as in Syria. By channelling multiple jurisdictions simultaneously, using both Ukrainian and extraterritorial legal domestic frameworks, chances are maximized to hold perpetrators to account while offering alternatives to justice for hundreds of survivors. Our innovative approach to profiling persons of interest helps us build a cross-border network of accountability, aiming to identify and trace perpetrators of atrocities in Ukraine.

Building upon a long-standing and successful experience in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we also focus on strengthening Ukrainian domestic investigative capacities. Along with local and international partners, we support the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General’s efforts to combat core international crimes, particularly in developing pattern-based cases, better suited to the context of mass atrocities. We also promote a stronger integration of survivors and vulnerable groups of individuals within the different stages of the accountability process.