Exposing brutality and impunity after two years of full-scale invasion and a decade of Russian atrocities in Ukraine

Narciso Contreras / ANADOLU / Anadolu via AFP

After a decade of Russian aggression against Ukraine and two years of full-scale invasion, the international community must take immediate action to put an end to the Russian aggression in Ukraine, and effectively investigate and hold perpetrators accountable.

Paris, Kyiv, Kharkiv, 24 February 2024. For ten long years, the people of Ukraine have endured the brutal consequences of conflict, with no respite from the relentless violence and destruction. In the past two years, the situation has escalated to unprecedented levels, as Russian forces continue to carry out indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, leaving a trail of death and devastation in their wake.

This war has left no corner untouched, shattering the safety and security of civilians and robbing them of their basic rights and freedoms. Throughout this period, Russian aggression has perpetuated the cycle of violence and suffering in Ukraine. Ukraine has suffered an estimated 200 000 military casualties since February 2022, while the Russian’s are projected to top half a million. The invasion, characterised by systematic killings, tortures, and executions, has caused immeasurable harm to innocent civilians and violated their fundamental rights. It is estimated that more than 10 000 civilians have died since the start of the large-scale Russian invasion, while more than 6 millions have become refugees, 18 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance – almost 40 percent of Ukraine’s population. Each day brings with it the grim reality of life in a war zone, where the morning light offers no guarantee of safety or reprieve. The relentless dissemination of falsehoods and misinformation serves only to prolong the suffering of innocent civilians and obstruct efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation.

Document and denounce violations

For the past ten years, CSOs, including our organisations, have been at the forefront of documenting and exposing the grave human rights violations and international crimes committed in Ukraine, supporting victims’ and survivors’ access to meaningful accountability mechanisms.

Through our collective efforts, notably through the Tribunal for Putin initiative, we have meticulously documented close to 64,000 incidents of serious human rights violations, that may amount to international crimes committed by Russians in less than two years since the Russian full-scale invasion against Ukraine. The evidence collected reveals a disturbing pattern of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the last decade, including wilful killing, indiscriminate shelling, torture - notably in detention facilities -, rape and other sexual crimes, persecution, and the deportation of children to the Russian Federation.

How to provide meaningful justice for victims?

These ongoing crimes highlight a significant challenge: the current national, regional, and international mechanisms’ failure to deter or adequately respond to such acts of aggression and human rights violations. Despite the overwhelming evidence of egregious violations of international law, impunity persists, allowing perpetrators to evade justice and perpetrate further harm. The Russian authorities must be held accountable for their actions, and their continued disregard for international law and human rights principles should be unanimously condemned.

While certain efforts towards accountability can be welcomed, like the issuance of arrest warrants against Putin and the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), most of these atrocities, some amounting to international crimes, have not yet been effectively investigated or perpetrators prosecuted. Ukraine still needs to adapt its legal frameworks to be able to effectively investigate and prosecute for international crimes that are not effectively incorporated into domestic law,facing many challenges linked to rendering justice during wartime. States must cooperate with the ICC and adequately fund its activities to enable it to deliver true victim-centered justice against those who bear the greatest responsibility. Coordination is also key in the different initiatives by EU member states to open investigations into serious human rights violations committed in Ukraine based on extra-territorial jurisdiction. States also need to effectively cooperate with and consider the different recommendations included in the reports of independent investigative bodies.

Propaganda and misinformation campaign

Furthermore, Russia’s use of propaganda and misinformation to justify its actions and manipulate public perception reveals another dimension of its strategy, further complicating the international community’s response to the crisis. This aspect underscores the importance of addressing the broader implications of state-sponsored propaganda and the manipulation of information in perpetuating conflict and undermining efforts toward peace and justice.


The commitment to justice and accountability for the victims of human rights violations and international crimes shall be renewed. The international community is called upon to join in the pursuit of justice, holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and ensuring that the voices of the victims are heard and respected.

The international community is urged to heed the urgent plea and take concrete action to address the crisis in Ukraine. This includes:

 Russian Federation to immediately cease its military hostilities: States must firmly call the Russian Federation to immediately cease its military hostilities against Ukraine and withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine, and Belarus to cease its support for these actions.
 Continued Condemnation of Violations of International Law: Upholding the principles of international humanitarian law is essential to safeguarding the rights and dignity of all individuals affected by the conflict. - Continued condemnation by the international community of all violations of international law by all parties involved in the conflict in Ukraine is called for.
 Accountability for Perpetrators: Perpetrators of human rights violations and international crimes must be held accountable for their actions. The international community must support efforts to investigate, prosecute, and punish those responsible for atrocities committed in Ukraine.
 Strengthened Cooperation and Complementarity: Collaboration between existing accountability mechanisms investigating international crimes committed in Ukraine is essential to ensure effective investigations into alleged crimes and prosecution of those responsible. Further complementary accountability mechanisms should make sure to fill the impunity gap and to best respond to the needs of victims, to be considered as active right-holders.
 Advancement of Supplementary Accountability Mechanisms: Further deliberations on the establishment of complementary and victim-centered accountability mechanisms for the crime of aggression would provide a forum for impartial adjudication and contribute to the deterrence of future atrocities. Moreover, the importance of further utilizing the principle of universal jurisdiction by states is crucial, enabling the investigation and prosecution of international crimes committed in Ukraine across the globe. This approach reinforces the international legal framework and ensures that perpetrators of grave violations are held accountable, irrespective of their location.
 Confiscation and Reallocation of Russian State Assets: The international community should enhance their work on the confiscation of Russian state assets as a punitive and reparative measure for victims of the crimes, particularly in providing reparations for affected individuals and communities. This action would not only provide tangible support to Ukrainians but also serve as a significant deterrent against future breaches of international law by demonstrating that there are severe financial consequences for such actions.

The Ukrainian civilians’ enduring resilience in the face of the terror of incessant bombardment must encourage a swift action from the international community. Despite the unimaginable challenges they face, they remain steadfast in their determination to rebuild their lives and communities. Standing in unwavering solidarity with Ukrainian civil society, offering support as it strives for a future free from violence and oppression, governments and international organisations must take urgent measures to ensure the safety and protection of civilians.

The time for robust legal reforms and the establishment of more effective human rights protection mechanisms is now, to prevent future atrocities and safeguard the dignity and rights of victims of human rights violations.

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