Coalition recording each Russian crime ready for Putin’s day in court | UK News

SUNDAY 6AM Ukraine?s ?tribunal for Putin? coalition mapping each Russian war crime live getty

A coalition of groups is undertaking work to document and map instances of war crimes perpetrated by Vladimir Putin’s forces (Picture: Reuters/AP/Tribunal for Putin)

As Vladimir Putin continues to pound civilian targets in Ukraine, a human rights coalition is recording each war crime ready for the day when the perpetrators face justice.

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) represents 24 groups undertaking exhaustive work to hold the Russian president and his accomplices accountable for tens of thousands of acts of brutality.

Ideally this would be at The Hague in the Netherlands, and while it may not happen soon, the coalition has resolved to help build a solid legal framework, even if takes decades.

At present, there are more than 8,700 deaths on the T4P’s live system from more than 44,900 incidents — with the toll rising every day.

Each is recorded on a vast database and mapped to the location where it was recorded, with the intention that every single one is investigated.

Denys Volokha, media director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, one of the tribunal’s three trustee groups, wants the international community to show the perpetrators that ‘there is no impunity for them’.

The groups have joined forces because the scale of the work would be a challenge for any country — let alone one under wartime conditions.

‘We have more than 44,800 cases, mainly involving Russian shelling and missile attacks on residential areas, and have identified more than 8,000 victims across the different regions of Ukraine,’ Mr Volokha said.

(Picture: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

A scorched residential block in the neighbourhood of northern Saltivka which lies in the Kharkiv region (Picture: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

(Picture: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Russian forces have left a scene of devastation in the Ruski Tyshky village in the Kharkiv region (Picture: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

‘We are part of Tribunal for Putin, so we are united with the Ukrainian Centre for Civil Liberties and human rights organisations all over Ukraine to document these human rights abuses.

‘Most of the victims were killed or injured in random or precise shelling and air strikes and we have many clients who were victims of torture.

‘There are many cases of people being detained and taken to torture chambers and subjected to electricity and beatings.

‘Civilians were used as human shields when the Russians placed artillery and Grad missile launchers near to private homes in residential areas.

‘They created targets with the intention that the Ukrainian response would damage civilian infrastructure. The Russians also targeted schools and universities, and there are hundreds of schools which have been completely levelled or damaged by Russian artillery.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with service members at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 27, 2023. Sputnik/Mikhail Tereshchenko/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Human rights defenders want to make sure that Vladimir Putin does not escape judgement for Russian aggression in Ukraine (Picture: Sputnik via Reuters)

‘My own university, the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute, was struck several times despite not having any military presence. In some cases, there may have been a rumour that Ukrainian soldiers were using these places but in others there is no evidence whatsoever that the military were there.’

The civilian initiative was established when Russia launched its all-out invasion 16 months ago and it aims to document events defined as violations in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes.

Live figures are broken down into categories also including rape, disappearances and people who were wounded or otherwise harmed.

Bucha, Irpin and Mariupol are synonymous with alleged Russian war crimes but the work is uncovering similar abuses in many other places such as Chernihiv, Mkyolaiv and Sumy.

One of the latest videos shared by the T4P shows shelling obliterating a residential area in the Saltivka residential district of Kharkiv, a city and region in the north-east of the country.

Picture: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

A razed farm in Kam’ianka, a settlement in the Kharkiv region, shown in an aerial image (Picture: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

(Picture: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

Documented incidents of war crimes include the wholesale destruction of civilian residences and properties (Picture: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group)

The local government estimates that around 70% of buildings in the neighbourhood have been destroyed as a result of indiscriminate shelling, predominantly in the first six months of the full-scale invasion.

Behind the figures are harrowing stories from civilians who have described violations such as having their homes destroyed or being detained and tortured when Russians forces occupied their neighbourhoods.

One of those who has shared their experiences with the T4P is Iryna Oliinyk, from the liberated city of Borodyanka, which lies 40km northwest of Kyiv.

Iryna, 49, described how her husband and two-year-old son were seriously injured a week into the war as a Russian airstrike destroyed her apartment.

‘When I drive past our house, I want to cry,’ she said. ‘I want to go home.’

The T4P’s ultimate aim is to bring the war’s architects in front of an international court. A crucial step forward came in March when the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Putin, seeking to bring him before a tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for allegedly trafficking children from occupied areas of Ukraine into Russia. Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, was also accused of the war crime.

The coalition’s work suggests the charges are part of a systemic pattern of human rights abuses. Lawyers and researchers are currently spread out across the different regions of Ukraine, gathering evidence and providing material and psychological assistance.

An extensive dossier alleging that Russia has committed genocide in Ukraine, along with other examples of war crimes, is due to be submitted by the group to the ICC and UN. The peacekeeping body has already found ‘reasonable grounds’ to conclude that an array of such violations have been committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

‘It’s important to bring those responsible to justice to prevent future crimes and to show Russian soldiers and the higher command that there will be no impunity for them,’ Mr Volokha said. ‘Every single crime must be prosecuted so they must be afraid of committing new crimes. They must know that justice will sooner or later come to them.

‘The Wagner group mutiny shows Putin’s hold on Russia is not absolute, and there are past cases where leaders were brought to justice, such as Radovan Karadžić, who was convicted at the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague, and Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia who was also found guilty of war crimes at the court. This could happen to Putin too.

‘We have a long-term project to prepare a 200,000-character submission to international bodies like the ICC and the UN committees, arguing what is happening in Ukraine amounts to genocide and are preparing individual cases to send to UN committees and the ICC.’

Iryna Oliinyk tells her story amid the destruction wrought by Russian forces on her neighbourhood in Borodyanka (Picture: Tribunal 4 Putin)

Iryna Oliinyk tells her story amid the destruction wrought by Russian forces on her neighbourhood in Borodyanka (Picture: Tribunal 4 Putin)

At an international level, a number of Ukraine’s allies, including the UK government and Met Police, are already actively involved in work to investigate war crimes and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Mounting evidence includes the UN’s human rights office saying in a report that Russian forces have arbitrarily detained more than 900 civilians and carried out widespread torture and summary executions.

The Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General is stepping up its own investigative work and currently has more than 97,000 cases of ‘crimes of aggression and war crimes’ in its system.

‘We are also preparing information for the Ukrainian legal system, but this amount of war crimes is not something the legal system of any one country could handle, as no country has enough judges, prosecutors, or investigators to handle all these cases,’ Mr Volokha said.

‘We have plenty of evidence, and in the long term, we are developing special teams to identify individual Russian units and perpetrators responsible for the shelling of residential areas, which makes up for 74% of our cases. Our in-house lawyers can handle thousands of cases, but we have more than 44,800 in our database, and the number is likely to be much bigger as our work continues.’

Satellite images show bodies thought to have been lying in Bucha for weeks, contradicting Russia’s claim that the scenes have been staged (Picture: Maxar)

Satellite images show bodies thought to have been lying in Bucha for weeks, contradicting Russia’s claim that the scenes have been staged (Picture: Maxar)

On Tuesday, the Kharkiv group published images of destruction in the region’s liberated Ruski Tyshky village, using cameras on the ground and drones to capture scenes of charred buildings and vehicles.

A long road may follow to bring those ultimately responsible to justice but the human rights defenders are determined to stay the course.

The Centre for Civil Liberties, another of the three trustee groups, is also laying the framework for what are envisaged as future charges at the ICC or in local jurisdictions, such as the Netherlands’ prosecution of the MH17 case.

Another forum might be a new international centre, based in The Hague, which was established this week to prosecute the crime of the full-scale invasion itself. The act of aggression against a peaceful neighbouring country, which precipitated all of the cases, currently falls into a legal gap.

Oleksandra Romantsova, executive director of the Kyiv-based centre, which was set up at the outset of Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014, told that the ICC may take on specimen cases.

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One of the atrocities considered suitable for the ICC is the massacre in Bucha, where evidence of war crimes under Russian occupation includes bodies of civilians left in mass graves and in the streets, many bearing the hallmarks of torture and summary execution.

‘We are not waiting in hope that Putin will one day appear in front of a tribunal,’ Ms Romatsova said.

‘This is something that human rights defenders in Ukraine and other countries are working towards every single day.

‘Politicians like to see immediate success, but justice is something that can take longer to achieve. It might take decades, but it is something we are laying the framework for.’

The scope of war crimes is spread across the Russian chain of command and has its antecedents in the Stalinist era and the fact that the Soviet dictator never faced justice for the brutality and mass murder perpetrated by his regime, according to the T4P. The centre says it has uncovered a systematic pattern of crimes across Ukraine, including arbitrary detention, torture and the ‘filtration’ of civilians from occupied areas.


Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives to deliver a speech entitled ‘No Peace Without Justice for Ukraine” at The Hague (Picture: Reuters)

‘In a best case scenario, the ICC would take on say, six cases,’ Ms Romatsova said. ‘The ICC takes on huge cases, and, for example, one of these could be Bucha. There are 500 bodies, and each needs to be described in detail with the evidence in each instance. But we can only lay the framework. It will be up to the ICC to decide when it has enough evidence to bring charges.’

The centre is taking part in work which includes field trips, speaking to victims and documenting abuses recorded by Russian troops themselves and shared via online channels such as Telegram.

The investigators feel the work has a significance beyond Ukraine’s borders.

‘If you don’t recognise, investigate and put these crimes before the courts, they become normalised,’ Ms Romatsova said.

‘We don’t want this to happen in any place in the world.

‘This happened once in our history, when a million people were killed in Ukraine during the Soviet era, and when millions more were sent to Gulags and labour camps. The war crimes in Ukraine now are happening because of the destruction of human rights in previous decades.

‘You need to seize the moment when this path is started and that’s why we feel that responsibility for the rest of the world and why we are fighting for the whole model of democracy and human rights.’

MORE : World at crucial moment amid mounting evidence of ‘unspeakable’ horrors in Ukraine

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Justin Scaccy

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