01 Nov 2022

‘Our Nuremburg moment’: international legal community pledges continued support for Ukraine at IBA conference in Miami

Offer of support made at packed conference event hosted by the Ukrainian Bar Association that called for Special Tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes

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Delegates at the International Bar Association's (IBA’s) annual conference in Miami offered continuing support for Ukraine’s lawyers and their clients at a packed breakfast meeting hosted by the Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA). 

The event showcased the UBA’s ‘ReOpen Ukraine’ campaign, which aims to establish accountability for Russian war crimes and the practical steps needed to restore the rule of law in Ukraine, including compensation for losses suffered. 

Sponsored by numerous leading international and CEE law firms as a fundraiser, the session on Monday (31 October) was moderated by UBA President Anna Ogrenchuk. Ogrenchuk again urged support for the establishment of a Special Tribunal for Crimes of Aggression against Ukraine, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, having called for such a tribunal in a recorded message played at the IBA’s opening ceremony on Sunday.

Calling the tribunal “an urgent measure for restoration of the rule of law”, Ogrenchuk stressed the need to establish new mechanisms to address Russian accountability for war crimes and damages. Such a body would send a clear signal that justice will be served, she said, repeating her call that it should “strip President Putin of his status, influence and support”. 

Delegates also heard from Natalie Yaresko, the former Ukrainian finance minister, who suggested in a video feed that justice and urgent financial support for Ukraine was as needed as air defence and weapons.

She spoke alongside Mark Ellis, the executive director of the IBA, who last week signed a memorandum of understanding between the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) of Ukraine and the IBA to ensure accountability for war crimes. The memorandum built on a week-long visit in September 2022 by Ellis to Ukraine to discuss how the IBA could assist the Ukrainian legal community. 

Ellis, along with Judge Ivana Hrdličková, president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, Beth Van Schaack, discussed how the international legal community could create mechanisms for accountability with fair trial processes, described by one speaker as “our Nuremburg moment”.

The scale of evidence collected by the IBA’s mobile application ‘eyeWitness to Atrocities’ was also discussed, with video footage played by the UBA described by one delegate as “harrowing”. The prosecution of Russian war crimes was seen as challenging for national and international justice systems, albeit no statute of limitations for such crimes exists. 

Prosecutions would involve the International Criminal Court and the Ukrainian authorities, as well as the Special Tribunal. All the panellists stressed the need for robust and fair processes to ensure individual accountability was both subject to, and an example of, the rule of law. 

The speakers were joined online by Vladyslav Rashkovan, alternate executive director of the IMF, who, with Yaresko, explained the sheer scale of financial support needed to sustain the Ukrainian economy as part of a post-war economic transformation. 

Rashkovan and Yaresko stressed opportunities for business development in view of Ukraine’s status as a candidate for accession to the European Union.

Delegates also discussed measures to confiscate assets involved in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. While there would be difficulties in enforcement, the Russian state and its companies were seen as priority subjects as opposed to oligarchs, who may or may not have supported the Putin regime and whose positions were therefore less clearcut. 

 

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