Questions of this study are who are foreigners involved in the armed conflict in Ukraine in terms of international humanitarian law and national law? Under whose jurisdiction are their actions, committed during the conflict? Is it possible to bring them to justice if they have already left the territory of Ukraine?
Oleksii Bida, coordinator of the UHHRU Documentation Center, said that during the last decade, the number of mercenaries involved in the armed conflict has been increasing. According to him, this is due to the fact that international legal norms weakly regulate the activities of mercenaries. This means that they can be used in internal and external military conflicts without any special consequences, said the human rights defender.
Oleksandr Sedov, an analyst at the Documentation Center, emphasized that the report included information not only about citizens of Ukraine but also about many foreigners, first of all – citizens of the Russian Federation. They, according to preliminary estimates, make up 10% of the collected information. In addition, there are data on hundreds of people who are citizens of Serbia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Germany, Slovakia and other countries.
Oleksandr Sedov noted that Ukraine pursues these citizens under the following articles of the Criminal Code: 258-3 “Creation of a terrorist group or terrorist organization”, 260 “Creation of unlawful paramilitary or armed formations”, 438 “Violation of rules of the warfare”, as well as 110 “Trespass against territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine” and 437 “Planning, Preparation, Resolution and Conduct of an Aggressive War”. The report itself contains extensive information collected by the UHHRU Analytical Center on the responsibility of mercenaries and other perpetrators of crimes in the area of the armed conflict in the East.
The analyst also noted that the review was published in Russian and English in order to allow a wider audience, including mercenaries themselves, to know what responsibility they would have to bear.
Alina Pavliuk, a lawyer of the Strategic Litigations Center of UHHRU, said that there are two main ways of domestic law enforcement agencies’ interaction with international ones in cases of bringing mercenaries to criminal liability for crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine. This is a search in the Interpol system and in conviction in absentia. But these methods have their own barriers. In the first case, it features a specialized order that regulates cooperation between Interpol and the National Police. According to this document, the National Central Bureau of Interpol refuses, in whole or in part, to execute requests related to a political or military crime. Also, according to the lawyer, there is a problem with filing requests to Interpol.
In the second case, “such practices of States do not coincide with the right to justice, which is provided for by the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Ukraine is also a mamber of the Convention and has positive and negative obligations that must be properly implemented. In the case of non-compliance with these requirements, there is a high risk that the cases before the European Court against Ukraine, namely, regarding these mechanisms of out-of-court consideration of the case will increase “, noted Alina Pavliuk.
Oleksandr Yevseiev, a scientific advisor to the judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, also took part in the presentation. He spoke about international humanitarian law and the implications of mercenaries for violating them.