23 Mar 2022

Quinn Emanuel acts pro bono for Ukraine in human rights proceedings over Russia invasion

Team to bring case before European Convention on Human Rights over ‘unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful acts of aggression’

IRPIN, UKRAINE - Mar. 05, 2022: War in Ukraine. People cross a destroyed bridge as they evacuate the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, during heavy shelling and bombing

People crossing a destroyed bridge as they evacuate the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv Drop of Light;shuttertock

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has been appointed as counsel by Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice in European human rights proceedings being brought against Russia. 

The proceedings, which will be brought under the European Convention on Human Rights, arise from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which the firm called 'unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful acts of aggression'. 

The specialist disputes firm, which is acting on a pro bono basis, will field London co-managing partner Alex Gerbi and fellow UK partner Julianne Hughes Jennett assisted by counsel at Blackstone Chambers, led by Timothy Otty QC, and Twenty Essex, led by Guglielmo Verdirame QC. 

Gerbi has acted for Ukraine before, most recently in the $3bn Law Debenture v Ukraine bondholder litigation, currently awaiting judgment from the UK Supreme Court, while Hughes-Jennett, who joined Quinn in 2019, was formerly head of business and human rights at Hogan Lovells. 

The firm closed its Moscow office in 2019, in a move it recently explained was partly due to its advocacy for Ukraine.

Otty, meanwhile, is a distinguished public international lawyer and human rights silk, having combined practice with academic interests, much as Guglielmo Verdirame QC does. Both men are experienced, having taken silk in 2006; the combination, with Gerbi and Hughes-Jennett, is a powerful one.  

Otty has also represented Ukraine previously, most recently in Littop and others v Ukraine, a ground-breaking Swedish Chamber of Commerce arbitration, believed to represent the largest ever Energy Charter Treaty claim brought against Ukraine, at $6bn, which resolved last year in Ukraine’s favour. 

In a statement, Quinn Emanuel said: “Ukraine and its legal team are deeply committed to ensuring that Russia’s egregious conduct is subjected to full scrutiny before the Strasbourg Court and that Russia is held to account for its heinous ongoing breaches of the most fundamental rules of international law which are causing such devastation to Ukraine and its people.”

Ukraine previously hired Covington & Burling to sue Russia in the International Court of Justice at the Hague over the invasion, which began on 24 February. 

The Washington DC-based firm, which has a track record representing Ukraine before the ICJ, sought interim orders in early March for Russia to cease hostilities. The team is being led by US partners Marney Cheek and David Zionts and London partner Jonathan Gimblett, with Professors Harold Hongju Koh of Yale Law School and Jean-Marc Thouvenin of Paris-Nanterre University acting as co-counsel.

In a filing, the US law firm argued: Russia is now engaged in a military invasion of Ukraine involving grave and widespread violations of the human rights of the Ukrainian people'. It said Russian claims that the invasion was warranted had 'no lawful basis'. 

On March 16, by 13 votes to 2, the ICJ issued provisional measures against Russia, which declined to appear in the litigation, making written submissions instead, saying it was 'profoundly concerned about the use of force by the Russian Federation in Ukraine, which raises very serious issues of international law'.

Covington senior counsel Peter Trooboff is one of the signatories of a petition calling for an international tribunal to investigate Vladimir Putin and his accomplices for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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