IBA and Ukrainian Bar Association join forces on war crime trials monitoring
The International Bar Association (IBA) and the Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA) have joined forces to monitor war crime trials in courts in Kyiv and Kharkiv Oblasts from July until the end of September 2023.
The monitoring will be delivered as part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Human Rights in Action Program, which is being implemented by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.
The UBA will examine how the right to a fair trial is respected in these cases measured against international standards, prepare a report outlining best judicial practice and offer recommendations to address any shortfalls that may be identified. A team of experts from the IBA has assisted the UBA through the preparation of the trial monitoring methodology, the implementation of the monitoring itself and the production of the report.
IBA executive director Dr Mark Ellis commented: “It is imperative for Ukraine’s reputation that justice is served for victims and the accused alike. Thus, the monitoring of war crime trials in Ukraine is an essential step towards the goals of achieving justice and accountability for the Ukrainian population, while simultaneously ensuring fair trial processes are being followed for the accused. The UBA–IBA trial monitoring collaboration illustrates Ukraine’s ongoing commitment to improve trial practices, prevent potential future procedural complications, and increase process transparency.”
UBA President Anna Ogrenchuk stated: “The monitoring will support the national justice system in adhering to the highest standards of the right to a fair trial. We seek to show that, unlike the Russian Federation, Ukraine respects the rule of law and international obligations, even in cases that concern the ongoing war. Law is our weapon, and Ukraine puts it to work.”
Trial monitoring is a method to reinforce the right to a fair trial that applies to the public including victims, witnesses, the defence, prosecutors and the judiciary. It is an information-gathering mechanism that can help assess strengths and weaknesses in the justice system and identify areas for reform. Trial monitoring can also help draw international attention to particular cases and encourage adherence to proper legal procedures.
The IBA’s team of experts includes Dr Ellis, the IBA’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) programme lawyer Dr Ewelina Ochab, IBAHRI honorary president Justice Richard Goldstone, IBAHRI co-chair Mark Stephens CBE, IBA War Crimes Committee treasurer Sara Elizabeth Dill and Steven Kay KC.
Judge Goldstone commented: “It is crucial that human rights and international law be upheld during these war crimes trials taking place in Ukraine. Nationalism and prejudice must not be allowed to enter the justice system. All trials must adhere to fair standards for Ukraine to avoid being seen as conducting “show trials” simply to satisfy public opinion, rather than ensuring justice.”