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The IBA’s response to the situation in Ukraine
The IBA’s War Crimes Committee is the only IBA committee of its kind focused specifically on atrocity crimes, and international criminal law and practice. Over the past fifteen years there has been tremendous growth and development in this field of law. This new committee provides a forum for the very diverse group of practitioners and scholars involved in this area of law.
The committee endeavours to provide IBA members with comprehensive and reliable information and resources on international criminal law. It also provides lawyers, international agencies and tribunals with an unparalleled and easily accessible network of contacts and, in turn, is directly involved with the IBA’s ongoing programme in support of international, ad hoc and domestic war crimes tribunals.
The committee works alongside the IBA Human Rights Institute and the IBA Human Rights Law Committee to promote justice around the world, and uphold the principle of accountability.
Starting in 2017, the War Crimes Committee has established a special connection to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who have appointed an IHL Expert/Observer to the Committee.
The War Crimes Committee has the following statement of aims:
On 31 October and 1 November 2022, the WCC will host two sessions at the IBA Annual Conference in Miami.
1) Corporate liability for international criminal law violations - Monday 31 October
Multinational corporations are increasingly facing allegations of involvement in atrocity crimes. This panel will explore past and current cases where corporate entities and/or their officers have been investigated and, in some cases, criminally charged for core international crimes such as war crimes and crimes against humanity. For example, in France, the cement company Lafarge faces charges of crimes against humanity committed in Syria, and in Sweden, Lundin Energy executives have been charged with aiding and abetting war crimes in South Sudan. The panel will look at the general framework for such liability, and the challenges faced in the investigation and prosecution of alleged corporate perpetrators.
2) Universal jurisdiction and the move of national courts to the forefront of international criminal justice - Tuesday 1 November
As a legal mechanism, universal jurisdiction expands the possibilities for justice in areas where the International Criminal Court's involvement will likely remain limited due to legal, security, logistical, and political constraints. This panel explores the contours of universal jurisdiction and the practical implications of its use, using trials and investigations of crimes in multiple countries as case studies of its application. A prime case study is the situation of Syria. Whereas established international institutions such as the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court have been unable to provide any real measure of accountability for the large-scale crimes alleged to have been committed in Syria since 2011, domestic prosecution services in several countries have stepped in to fill the void. Individuals have been convicted before various national courts for a range of atrocity crimes committed in Syria and many more investigations are underway. Several of these criminal cases have only been possible on the basis of the contested notion of universal jurisdiction.
Below is a list of webinars presented by the Committee. Where webinar recordings have a password, IBA members can obtain this by emailing email@example.com
War Crimes Committee Conference - Session 1: The situation in Ukraine
9 May 2022
War Crimes Committee Conference - Session 2: Workplace culture at the International Criminal Court (ICC)
10 May 2022
War Crimes Committee Conference - Session 3: Human rights-centered sanctions regimes
11 May 20221
War Crimes Committee Conference - Session 4: The challenges to undertaking domestic and hybrid trials for atrocity crimes
12 May 2022
War Crimes Committee Conference - Session 5: Legal pluralism and the International Criminal Court
13 May 2022
The International Bar Association’s (IBA) War Crimes Committee (WCC) strongly condemns the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, and supports the IBA’s response to the crisis.
WCC officers call on all parties to the conflict to comply with the rules of war and for international criminal law to be enforced. We support domestic and international efforts to bring accountability for alleged atrocity crimes being perpetrated by any individual engaged in the conflict. The legal resources below provide WCC members with information on select efforts to document and collect evidence at a criminal law standard, ways for lawyers to contribute through pro bono efforts, as well as temporary protection options around the world for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.
Please note that the views and opinions expressed in these resource links do not necessarily reflect the positions of the IBA’s WCC or the IBA in general. The links are provided for awareness of the issues, and this document and links do not constitute legal advice. The linked activities are not necessarily endorsed by the IBA’s WCC or the IBA, and their descriptions below are provided as a courtesy, based upon information on the respective website (at times direct quotes). The descriptions have not been independently verified by the IBA’s WCC or the IBA. This is a non-exhaustive list, and WCC members are welcome to contact WCC officers with potential additional resources.
On the IBA hub page on the Russia Ukraine crisis you will find IBA statements on the situation and Global Insight coverage of this and related issues in the form of articles, podcasts, and films.
This page contains key resources to help documenters in Ukraine capture relevant and reliable audio-visual evidence that can lead to justice. Through the eyeWitness app, photos and videos can be recorded and directly transmitted. The app automatically records time, date, and location. That information and the footage are sent encrypted. The way eyeWitness transmits and stores the footage creates a chain of custody to allow the photos to be used as evidence in court. eyeWitness catalogues the footage it receives and compiles it into dossiers for submission to international or national investigators.
A guide to how Amnesty verifies military attacks in Ukraine: The Evidence Lab collects audio-visual material and analyzes it for evidence of violations of international law. This material includes satellite imagery, video footage and photos of air strikes and other attacks, and of the aftermath of these attacks, as well as images of weapons remnants. This page also contains a map and list of alleged attacks by Russian forces in Ukraine which the Evidence Lab has verified to date, some of which “may constitute war crimes under international law”.
Bellingcat is an independent international collective of researchers, investigators, and citizen journalists using open source and social media investigation to probe a variety of subjects. They are mapping incidents of civilian harm in Ukraine. Their Global Authentication Project consists of a community of open source researchers working with many individuals who have Ukrainian language skills and others with local contextual knowledge of the events and places seen on the map. Other participants include individuals skilled in geolocation and chronolocation, with all contributions being vetted by Bellingcat researchers.
Under the purview of the War Crimes Program, the RCMP has launched a national structural investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine. A website has been launched to provide Ukrainians entering Canada with information about this national investigation and how they can share information.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice has started to investigate and carry out legal work to advance accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression committed in Ukraine, and pursue justice for victims through national and international courts. The Docket, CFJ’s initiative focused on justice for victims of international crimes, has a team on the outskirts of Kyiv and will spearhead the investigation and litigation. It will use its expertise in gathering survivor evidence and eyewitness testimonies as well as expert analysis of open-source evidential materials.
Global Diligence and its partners are helping coordinate the huge effort to document ongoing war crimes in Ukraine. GD has been documenting evidence of international crimes in Ukraine since 2014, and has submitted multiple case files to the International Criminal Court and national prosecutors under the principle of universal jurisdiction. For more information on how to participate or support civil society efforts on justice and accountability in Ukraine, please get in touch through the contact page or email firstname.lastname@example.org
GRC has been active in Ukraine since 2015. Since its arrival, GRC has been the amongst most active IHL experts, working with a range of government and non-government actors, including advising on the classification of the armed conflict, the application of IHL, the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of international crimes reportedly committed by the Russian authorities (e.g., forcible transfer, forced conscription, appropriation of property, indiscriminate attacks on civilian objects, and persecution), providing services to high-ranking officials in a range of government ministries and supporting civil society organisations in seeking remedies for violations of international law. Also see GRC’s Basic Investigative Standards For International Crimes Investigations [English][Russian].
This ICRC page provides extensive information about international humanitarian law (IHL), a set of rules that seek to limit the effects of armed conflict. IHL aims to protect people who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. This page includes information on the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols which form the core of IHL, which regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects.
The ICC has established this dedicated portal for individuals wishing to contact investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) regarding current situations under investigation, including Ukraine. This platform is designed to help the OTP identify persons who may have information or evidence relevant to its investigations.
IPHR is currently working to support Ukrainian human rights organisations to ensure accountability for violations perpetrated during the Maidan protests, as well as the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. As part of this, it has trained, equipped and dispatched field monitors to investigate and document alleged war crimes for submission to the International Criminal Court. IPHR and its partners have also documented and highlighted violations of the rights of religious minorities and other vulnerable groups in the context of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as Russia’s occupation of Crimea.
Updated interactive map of Europe displaying the various domestic investigations of alleged atrocity crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and international justice initiatives in the Russia/Ukraine conflict.
Ukraine Transitional Justice & Documentation: the purpose of this portal is to provide capacity-building for civil society organisations and individuals seeking to document the alleged atrocity crimes and human rights violations being perpetrated in Ukraine.
Truth Hounds has been documenting international crimes committed by all actors during the armed conflict in and occupation of parts of Ukraine’s territory since 2014. During this period they have made submissions to the International Criminal Court and provided analytical reports to national investigative authorities, including the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Truth Hounds is reporting on their documentation of alleged war crimes in Ukraine on their website. Truth Hounds has also joined several dozen nonprofit organisations in a global initiative ‘Breaking the Vicious Circle of Russia’s Impunity for Its War Crimes’ which has documented and recorded over 1100 alleged war crimes committed by Russia in the territory of Ukraine in their joint database.
New online platform for eyewitnesses of international crimes to send their evidence (in Ukrainian).Also, see Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice webpage to report a war crime (in English): "If you have witnessed or been a victim of human rights violations, record and send evidence."
Ukraine 5 AM Coalition is made up of 16 Ukrainian human rights organisations devoted to documenting war crimes in Ukraine. The members of the coalition have relevant professional experience and expertise, as they have already been documenting grave crimes since the beginning of the Russian aggression in the Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions in 2014, followed by hundreds submissions to international courts.
ULAG is a team of analysts and lawyers working to strengthen the domestic legal system, conducting strategic litigation, and engaging with other foreign domestic as well as international legal institutions.
Call for volunteers: interviewing victims of Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine (in Ukrainian). Truth Hounds and IPHR are looking for volunteers to help interview victims and / or witnesses of war crimes allegedly committed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine. They are looking for people who: speak Ukrainian language fluently; are ready to dedicate 3-4 hours each day, at least several times a week, for interviews with victims in March-April; and have a phone with high speed internet. Legal education and/or experience in the field of human rights are welcome. To become a volunteer, please leave a message on WhatsApp, Viber or Signal at +995 551 10 28 81; +995 551 10 28 84.
Call for Nominations for Expert Roster: Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking justice experts, including, inter alia, Open-Source Investigators, Prosecutors (preferably with experience in prosecuting international crimes), Child Rights Investigators, Criminal Investigators (preferably with experience in investigating international crimes), Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Investigators, and Gender Advisors. Deadline for nominations: 12 April 2022
Compilation of resources for organisations or individuals who need basic legal assistance concerning people on the move or documenting human rights abuses. PILnet works with civil society organisations to identify their legal needs and connect them with pro bono lawyers in PILnet’s global legal network who have the relevant skills and expertise to help. Join PILnet’s law firm network to provide pro bono support to civil society organisations: subscribe here to be updated on their latest pro bono matters from around the world.
Free legal advice (Telephone Advice Service and Legal Chat Service). “We urge all lawyers to join in supporting this initiative! Contact +38 (096) 742-71-07 (Telegram) and you will be told how to do it.”
Organised by the Hungarian law firm KNP Law, the Ukrainian Crisis Legal Aid Database is a joint project of a consortium of international law firms, attorneys, and legal tech providers. The database is a free resource to connect international lawyers willing to provide pro bono legal services with displaced Ukrainians seeking legal aid.
The Center for International Legal Education (CILE) welcomes volunteers who can provide pro bono legal work on legal claims that Ukrainian individuals and entities may have in connection with the Russian invasion. CILE will coordinate this work and act as the initial client entity for law firms. Over time and subject to conflicts checks and client agreements, volunteer lawyers will work with Pitt Law students, other prominent law firms, and NGOs representing plaintiffs in actual cases as they develop. For more information, please contact Professor Charles T. Kotuby Jr. email@example.com.
Canadian Bar Association: the CBA has set up a list of pro bono lawyers who are able to provide services to individuals affected by the Ukrainian crisis at no charge. The initiative is in response to two newly established programs by the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada: 1) Canada-Ukraine Authorisation for Emergency Travel and 2) Special Family Reunification Sponsorship Pathway.
Portuguese Bar Association: a list of lawyers, broken down by region, that are offering their support pro bono.
AsyLex: chatbot that provides answers to some of the most pressing questions about where to find protection and how reception works in Switzerland.
Boundless Consultancy: Geneva-based legal consultancy providing free legal support to Ukrainians on residence permits and how to apply for family reunification.
Ukraine Advice Project UK: Volunteer to give legal advice in the UK. A group of volunteer qualified UK immigration lawyers providing a free service to connect Ukrainian citizens (and others fleeing Ukraine) with free legal advice on UK immigration, visas and asylum from qualified and regulated lawyers. To volunteer to give pro bono legal advice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You must be qualified to provide immigration advice in the UK.
Lawyers for Good Government Ukraine TPS Bono Project: L4GG’s Remote Pro Se Clinic will provide pro bono legal assistance for Ukrainian nationals to file their I-821s and apply for TPS. The clinic will (1) mobilise their community of lawyers, law firms, and in-house legal teams across the country; (2) train thousands of pro bono attorneys nationwide; and (3) use their technology platform to run the program 100% remotely. Emailsupport@l4gg.org for more information.
UNICEF Guidance for protecting displaced and refugee children in and outside of Ukraine
Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET). See also
Canada launches new temporary residence pathway to welcome those fleeing the war in Ukraine (17 March 2022); Canadian Bar Association - pro bono assistance for Ukrainians
EU Information for people fleeing the war in Ukraine and in need of temporary protection. See also Fragomen Immigration Update: Ukraine Crisis (includes practical steps and considerations).
Belgium: information for Ukrainians seeking protection and short and long stays
Bulgaria Information for citizens of Ukraine
France: Asylum Procedures for Ukrainians Planning to Remain in France
Germany: UNHCR information on Germany for Ukrainians. See also Refugee Law Clinics in Germany.
Greece: Information for Displaced Persons From Ukraine
Hungary: Information and legal assistance for refugees from Ukraine
Ireland: Temporary Protection for Ukrainians
Netherlands: Information for refugees from Ukraine
Immigration information for Ukrainians in the UK
Homes for Ukraine (UK Government scheme for private hosting of Ukrainian refugees). See also: BBC article, How can I offer a UK home to Ukrainian refugees?
Ukraine Advice Project UK: with free legal advice on UK immigration, visas and asylum from qualified and regulated lawyers
United States Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Ukrainians.
Secretary Mayorkas Designates Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status for 18 Months (3 March 2022);
FACT SHEET: Ukrainians in the United States Who May Qualify for Temporary Protected Status: An Overview (3 March 2022).
Over 120 participants attended a panel hosted by the War Crimes Committee of the International Bar Association (IBA) on Thurs, 8 December 2022 to discuss Guantánamo Bay from an international humanitarian and criminal law perspective.
Released on Dec 21, 2022
Many persons, whether civilian or otherwise hors de combat, remain detained by all sides to the conflict in Yemen. Their detention potentially violates several established provisions of international humanitarian law, international human rights law and may violate international criminal law. These detainees are reportedly kept in crowded and unsanitary conditions, thereby heightening the risks they face in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Released on Dec 01, 2021
Over the past two years, the IBA’s War Crimes Committee has been actively involved in efforts to strengthen the drafts of two major multilateral conventions focused on atrocity crimes. The first is the International Law Commission’s articles on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity, which could form the basis for the world’s first multilateral convention on the crime. The second is a state-led effort to create a multilateral convention on mutual legal assistance and extradition
Released on Jun 21, 2018
The War Crimes Committee also coordinates the activities of the following subcommittees/working groups.