Ending impunity in Eastern Ukraine: new report reveals the urgency to open an ICC investigation

(Kyiv, Paris) FIDH and Center for Civil Liberties (CCL, Ukraine) report exposes severe atrocities perpetrated by various armed groups against the civilian population in Eastern Ukraine. These new documented human rights violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity and need to be urgently investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). FIDH and CCL will present the report at a press conference in Kyiv on Friday October 23rd and will provide recommendations on how to ensure a full and impartial investigation of crimes committed in Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict.

"It is crucial both for victims and for the future of Ukraine that crimes committed do not go unpunished. Crimes against humanity and war crimes must be investigated and those responsible prosecuted and punished according to principles of international law"

Alexandra Koulaeva, Head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk, currently in Kyiv.

The joint report documents a number of grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed in Eastern Ukraine between May 2014 and August 2015. The report is based on the findings of nine monitoring missions in areas regained by the Ukrainian army in both Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps.

Preliminary evidence of incidents involving the armed groups of the so called DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic) suggests these crimes may result from a plan or policy to direct attacks against the civilian population, consistent with the qualification of crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute. Cases of killings, torture or inhuman treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention may also fall within the definition of war crimes under Article 8 of the Rome Statute. CCL and other observers have documented evidence consistent with these crimes from both sides while further investigation is still required.

Testimonies from victims and material evidence, such as blacklists, presented in the report show that certain categories of civilians have been specifically targeted by separatist armed groups, including pro-Ukrainian citizens and NGO activists, volunteers and journalists, minorities, religious communities, and civil servants. Some cases of persecution by pro-Ukrainian armed forces and militias have also been reported against individuals for their alleged support of “the enemy.”

"Testimonies covered by the report represent only a small part of violations: the scale of crimes committed in Eastern Ukraine is still hard to evaluate since proper investigation has not yet begun. What is certain is that impunity would only aggravate the human rights situation in Donbas"

CCL activist Maria Tomak.

Ukraine has the international obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for such international crimes, and to provide reparation to victims. Several cases have already been brought before domestic jurisdictions with regard to crimes perpetrated by pro-Ukrainian armed groups. However, it is difficult to establish whether any investigations have been initiated into crimes committed by the Ukrainian military. Further, investigations of crimes committed by armed groups of the LPR/DPR are fragmented and do not follow a systematic approach. Crimes committed by certain armed groups may even be ignored.

The Ukrainian government’s acceptance of the ICC’s jurisdiction over the conflict may provide a further avenue for accountability if the domestic justice system proves to be unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute international crimes.

“The ICC will always be a court of last resort, but by giving it jurisdiction over atrocities perpetrated during the conflict, Ukrainian authorities have committed themselves to seeing justice done, whether domestically or internationally”

Carrie Comer, FIDH's Representative to the ICC in The Hague, who also participates in this week's FIDH mission to Kyiv.

FIDH and CCL met with national authorities, Ukrainian lawyers, and civil society organisations in Kyiv in order to discuss recommendations regarding the fight against impunity for crimes committed in Ukraine since the start of the conflict.

Download the full report EASTERN UKRAINE: Civilians Caught in the Crossfire

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