On July 20, UHHRU press conference was held in Kyiv on the importance of documentation of war crimes and consequences of the armed conflict as well as the provision of aid to the victims.
Oleksiy Bida, coordinator of the Documentation Center of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, stressed the importance of a united effort in documenting war crimes. He spoke about the Center’s work in the field of transitional justice, specifically the monitoring visits and detailed studies of testimonies of victims and witnesses of war crimes. The coordinator invited other organizations to use the Center’s database, which contains the evidence in standardized form, for keeping common records of data on war crimes and human rights violations.
Oleksiy Bida also spoke about the Center’s cooperation with UHHRU’s Strategic Litigation Center in the judicial area. “Collected data are sent to the Litigation Center to support subsequent court proceedings at the national and international level, as well for submitting information to investigating authorities,” says the coordinator. “But it is important to ensure access to justice and create conditions that will allow all conflict victims to restore their rights.”
You can find the analytical reports of the Documentation Center on the website, in the Library section. The Center’s Facebook page can be found here. The Center is also working on the Memorial Map, which stores information about all those killed in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Military Prosecutor’s Office was represented at the event by Andrian Aleksieyev, prosecutor of the Division for Supervision of Compliance with the Law and Enforcement of Court Decisions in Criminal Cases, Department for Investigation of Crimes against the Foundations of National Security of Ukraine. According to him, pre-trial investigation showed that during 2014-2018, representatives of terrorist organizations “DPR” and “LPR” created camps and other unlawful detention facilities in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine for holding captured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians. “So, almost all of those unlawfully detained were subjected to severe torture and beatings or killed,” says the prosecutor. “The captives were held in inadequate conditions, were deprived of food, water and the ability to meet basic physiological needs, as well as of medical attention.”
He shared that at present, the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office identified over 3,500 people, of which about 1,700 are civilians and the rest are servicemen, who had been unlawfully detained and subjected to torture and inhuman treatment. The Prosecutor’s Office already interviewed 1,200 victims and identified about 120 locations of unlawful detention.
Emir Abdullayev, representative of the Department for Investigation of Crimes Committed in Temporarily Occupied Territories, Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, spoke about the pre-trial findings in the criminal investigation into the violations of the laws and customs of war by Russia’s armed forces and Russia-controlled terrorist organizations. According to him, the Department is investigating every instance of shelling, damage to civilian infrastructure, as well as deaths and bodily harm resulted from shelling.
“Since the Department was established, we have recorded over 182 cases of shelling against civilian infrastructure, and 88 of those are new,” says Emir Abdullayev. He stressed that investigation teams responded to each case, recording the incidents and interviewing people, with experts determining where the artillery shells had been fired from and what harm was done to the people in these territories. According to the Prosecutor General’s representative, over 300 examinations had been performed to assess the scale of damage done, with more than 200 victims and roughly the same number of witnesses interviewed. He also reported that the investigation helped uncover evidence that suggests Russia’s involvement in the armed conflict. In particular, weapons, military gear and a large number of medicines of Russian manufacture were discovered.
Elina Shyshkina, coordinator of the Right 2 Protection initiative, spoke about compensation for damage caused to the property of people that live near the front line, or those forcefully displaced after their homes had been destroyed in the hostilities. She also noted that, unfortunately, despite the proper actions of the government in criminal cases, there is still no unified database of property damaged or destroyed as a result of the conflict.
Also, according to the human rights defender, legislation contains no mechanism for providing compensation for property damaged or destroyed as a result of terrorist acts, although according to Art. 19 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, any losses resulting from a terrorist act should be reimbursed from the state budget of Ukraine. “However, this provision is on paper only and offers no implementation mechanism,” says Elina Shyshkina. At the same time, she brought up the National Strategy for the Integration of IDPs, already approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. The Strategy, among other things, provides for the creation of a legislative mechanism for providing compensation for damaged buildings, and the procedure for documenting damage. However, the Action Plan for the implementation of the Strategy is still in its planning stage, although the Strategy itself, according to the Right 2 Protection coordinator, is only intended until 2020.
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