Ukraine: IBA and Ukrainian Bar Association join forces on war crime trials monitoring

Monday 24 July 2023
The International Bar Association (IBA) and the Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA) have joined forces to monitor war crime trials in courts in Kyiv and Kharkiv Oblasts from July until the end of September 2023. The monitoring will be delivered as part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Human Rights in Action Program, which is being implemented by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. The UBA will examine how the right to a fair trial is respected in these cases measured against international standards, prepare a report outlining best judicial practice and offer recommendations to address any shortfalls that may be identified. A team of experts from the IBA has assisted the UBA through the preparation of the trial monitoring methodology, the implementation of the monitoring itself and the production of the report.

IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis commented: ‘It is imperative for Ukraine's reputation that justice is served for victims and the accused alike. Thus, the monitoring of war crime trials in Ukraine is an essential step towards the goals of achieving justice and accountability for the Ukrainian population, while simultaneously ensuring fair trial processes are being followed for the accused. The UBA–IBA trial monitoring collaboration illustrates Ukraine’s ongoing commitment to improve trial practices, prevent potential future procedural complications, and increase process transparency.’

UBA President Anna Ogrenchuk stated: ‘The monitoring will support the national justice system in adhering to the highest standards of the right to a fair trial. We seek to show that, unlike the Russian Federation, Ukraine respects the rule of law and international obligations, even in cases that concern the ongoing war. Law is our weapon, and Ukraine puts it to work.’

Trial monitoring is a method to reinforce the right to a fair trial that applies to the public including victims, witnesses, the defence, prosecutors and the judiciary. It is an information-gathering mechanism that can help assess strengths and weaknesses in the justice system and identify areas for reform. Trial monitoring can also help draw international attention to particular cases and encourage adherence to proper legal procedures. 

The IBA’s team of experts includes IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis, the IBA’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) Programme Lawyer Dr Ewelina Ochab, IBAHRI Honorary President Justice Richard Goldstone, IBAHRI Co-Chair Mark Stephens CBE, IBA War Crimes Committee Treasurer Sara Elizabeth Dill and Steven Kay KC. 

Judge Goldstone commented: ‘It is crucial that human rights and international law be upheld during these war crimes trials taking place in Ukraine. Nationalism and prejudice must not be allowed to enter the justice system. All trials must adhere to fair standards for Ukraine to avoid being seen as conducting “show trials” simply to satisfy public opinion, rather than ensuring justice.’

War trials in Ukraine have been made possible because of domestic and international efforts to collect potential evidence of the atrocities perpetrated by Russian troops. The IBA-founded eyeWitness to Atrocities app has played an important role in these efforts with Ukraine’s citizens using it to capture images that may be submitted to courts of law. Throughout Ukraine, the app has been used to upload footage to the eyeWitness organisation’s secure server – hosted and protected by LexisNexis Legal & Professional – for verification and safe storage. The app, with wide support from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office, Supreme Court and bar associations, has captured tens of thousands of images relating to the war, some of which have been submitted to the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Find out more about the IBA’s ongoing support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion: www.ibanet.org/Russia-Ukraine-Crisis-2022
  2. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, with the aim of protecting and promoting the rule of law globally, the IBA was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
  3. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous entity working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

  4. The Ukrainian Bar Association is an all-Ukrainian non-profit organisation that unites lawyers with various legal background under shared values and principles. Since its establishment in 2002, the main objective of the UBA has been to strengthen the rule of law in Ukraine, promote the protection of human rights, and development of the legal profession. The Association unites 7,000+ members of various legal specialties, has 23 regional branches in and 27 specialized committees.
  5. USAID program disclaimer: The report contains information obtained during field monitoring mission conducted in the framework of the USAID Human Rights in Action Program implemented by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

    Opinions, conclusions and recommendations presented in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the United States Government. The contents are the responsibility of the authors and UHHRU.

    The American people, through the USAID, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for 55 years. In Ukraine, USAID’s assistance focuses on three areas: Health and Social Transition, Economic Growth and Democracy and Governance. USAID has provided 1.8 bln. technical and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since 1992.

    For additional information about USAID programs in Ukraine, visit the website: ukraine.usaid.gov or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/USAIDUkraine

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