One year on, International Bar Association vows continued support for Ukraine

IBA underscores efforts to ensure legal accountability on first anniversary of Russian invasion

The International Bar Association (IBA) has underscored its continued support of Ukraine as the country marks the first anniversary of its invasion by Russia.

Noting that it was founded ‘to promote and protect the rule of law and international justice’, the IBA again condemned the invasion today. 

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.”

Last October Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, described delegates at the IBA’s annual conference in Miami as “defenders of the law and human rights” via a video address and emphasised the vital role of lawyers in ensuring justice is served to the instigators of the Russian invasion.

The IBA is acting on a number of fronts to support Ukraine and ensure accountability for war crimes and and other international crimes including the crime of aggression. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with the prosecutor general of Ukraine, Andriy Kostin, and another with Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice and the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision that sets out the terms of support for free legal aid provision. 

An IBA-Ukraine Ministry of Defense MOU is also being drafted to improve the legislative framework to ensure proper defence in cases concerning military crimes.

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Additionally the IBA has ringfenced more than $200,000 for humanitarian and technical support for the Ukrainian Bar Association and the Ukrainian National Bar Association, 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, commented: “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,” he added. 

Since the start of the war, Ukraine’s legal organisations and prosecutor general have encouraged the use of the IBA-founded eyeWitness to Atrocities app, which is being used to amass verified documentary evidence of potential war crimes in a way that is compliant with international legal standards. 

The IBA said that 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.

The body’s global network of lawyers has also been offering support for Ukraine by providing pro bono advice in a range of 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. 

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