The IBA’s response to the war in Ukraine
Ukraine one year on: IBA reiterates condemnation of Russia’s invasion and looks ahead
Today, 24 February 2023, marks exactly one year since Russia’s President Vladimir Putin ordered the illegal invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation. On this anniversary of the start of the war, the International Bar Association (IBA), founded to promote and protect the rule of law and international justice, reiterates its condemnation of the invasion and looks at what the future holds for holding to account the aggressor and others who may have committed war crimes.
In October 2022, at the Opening Ceremony of the IBA Annual Conference in Miami, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed delegates by video in which he referred to members of the audience as ‘defenders of the law and human rights’. He outlined the vital role of lawyers in ensuring justice is served to the instigators of the Russian invasion.
IBA President Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama commented: ‘We have witnessed a flagrant breach of the law for a year now. We are experiencing a great threat to democracy and justice. The international legal community, with the IBA acting as its common voice, has reacted not only by supporting Ukraine on all possible legal fronts, but also by reaffirming the fundamental values of our profession. I wish to use this anniversary to signal that the IBA will make every possible effort to ensure there will be legal accountability, including individual criminal liability. Finally, I express again today my solidarity and admiration for our Ukraine colleagues who continue performing their duties before their clients and their country in the worst circumstances.’
conducted being violated en masse, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Andriy Kostin, and the IBA have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation to ensure accountability for war crimes and other international crimes including the crime of aggression. To ensure the effective representation of cases concerning war crimes, the IBA has also signed an MOU with Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice and Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision that sets out the terms of support for free legal aid provision. In addition, an IBA-Ukraine Ministry of Defense MOU is being drafted with a focus on the improvement of the legislative framework to ensure proper defence in cases concerning military crimes.
Since condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the IBA has ringfenced more than USD 200,000 for humanitarian and technical support for the Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA) and the Ukrainian National Bar Association (UNBA), the latter of which the IBA has partnered with to deliver training on international criminal law for lawyers engaged in trials.
IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis, who at the outset of Russia’s invasion was determined that the IBA speak out against the aggression and that IBA expertise be employed to its fullest extent to support Ukraine, commented: ‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unconscionable, and as we mark one year since the military assault, it is imperative that we remind ourselves what is at stake regarding international law. At this time, the conflict in Ukraine shows no signs of abating. It is indisputable that widespread, systematic and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects have been committed over the course of this war. The international community has a responsibility to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, including the creation of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression. We will continue to implement the various MOUs between the IBA and Ukraine’s governmental entities, and provide expert knowledge and training to Ukraine to support efforts towards accountability and justice.’
Since the start of the war, Ukraine’s legal organisations and Prosecutor General have encouraged the widespread use of the IBA-founded eyeWitness to Atrocities app to capture potential evidence of war crimes. This tool is being used to amass verified documentary evidence of potential war crimes in a way that is compliant with international legal standards in domestic or international trials. To date, more than 32,000 images and videos have been received, with items submitted to the United Nations-mandated International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.
Ukraine’s legal profession has found much support from the IBA’s vast network of lawyers from across the globe, who in solidarity have provided pro bono efforts in numerous areas, including anti-trust, environmental damage, war crimes and asset recovery, as well as hosting webinar discussions and interviewing Ukrainian lawyers who remain working in Ukraine. The IBA President’s latest monthly blog post, Walking the Talk: Our brave Ukraine colleagues, features five short video clips of Ukrainian lawyers talking about how the war has impacted them and their professional practise. The IBA’s flagship publication, Global Insight, has also covered the war and its ramifications extensively, with articles on the impact the war has had on the global energy market and food security, as well as sanctions, refugees and prisoners of war.
Notes to the Editor
- Click here to read about the IBA’s support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
- 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, it 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.
The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
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