Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and aggression in Ukraine's eastern Donbas provinces that led to the establishment of non-recognised entities (the so-called "Donetsk/Luhansk People's Republics") in 2014 resulted in a significant deterioration in the human rights situation within these territories. The armed conflict has had wider human rights, economy and security repercussions for Ukraine and the region. Russia has also labelled the treatment of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians by Kyiv as "genocide". Russia used this allegation as a formal pretext for the all-out invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.
In light of the large-scale damage that has since been incurred by Ukraine's civilian structures, energy sector and the environment, much of the reparations discussion to date, unsurprisingly, has been focused on the infrastructural recovery of Ukraine. However, victims of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law also have an inherent right to remedy and reparation. While Russia's invasion of Ukraine has perpetuated general destruction across Ukraine, it has also led to atrocities on an individual level. To explore these issues further, on 15 June 2023, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) convened a hybrid event on 'Individual Reparations for Human Rights Violations in Ukraine'.
The panellists first provided important historical and political context for understanding the war in Ukraine and the formation of the so-called "Donetsk/Luhansk People's Republics". The panellists further analysed how this background has facilitated human rights abuses within these non-recognised entities.
The conversation then turned to transitional justice and reparations. Specifically, the panellists addressed Ukraine's transitional justice efforts prior to the full-scale invasion. They also discussed domestic and international undertakings to secure reparations for victims of atrocity crimes in Ukraine, and how efforts to achieve criminal accountability and end impunity have so far fallen short for survivors.
This report summarises the conversation and consolidates the key themes and ideas explored in the event. The panel discussion was chaired by Dr Jean-Pierre Gauci, Arthur Watts Senior Fellow in Public International Law and Director of Teaching and Training at BIICL. The panellists were Professor Roman Petrov, British Academy Research Fellow at BIICL; Dr Kateryna Busol, British Academy Research Fellow at BIICL; Dr Felix E Torres, Assistant Professor at Birmingham Law School; and Mariana Goetz, Head of Guide at the Global Survivors Fund.
BIICL extends its gratitude to all the panellists for their outstanding contribution to the discussion and to all attendees for their support of the event. This report was prepared by Daniella Apodaca, research intern in international law, and Dr Jean-Pierre Gauci.