Ukraine | A New Judicial Approach to Make Russia Pay for Its Aggression

Ukraine | A New Judicial Approach to Make Russia Pay for Its Aggression

(GENEVA) – The Clooney Foundation for Justice and other nongovernmental organizations filed a complaint with the United Nations on Wednesday against Russia for violating the rights of Ukrainians killed in a missile attack and demanded compensation.


The complaint was filed with the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, on behalf of 18 Ukrainian victims of a Russian missile attack two years ago on Vinnytsia, a town in west-central Ukraine.

In the attack on July 14, 2022, Russia hit a shopping mall in Vinnytsia—which was about 400 kilometers from the front line at the time—with three Kalibr cruise missiles, killing 29 people and wounding more than 200 others, the claimants said.

The Clooney Foundation (CFJ), co-founded by movie icon George Clooney and his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, along with the Swiss-based nonprofit Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) and the Ukrainian NGO Truth Hounds, hopes to set a precedent for making it easier to hold Russia accountable for its human rights abuses.

For those who filed the complaint, it is a matter of convincing the committee that Russia violated the victims’ right to life, and thus freeing them from the status of “collateral damage” of the conflict. This would also make it possible to claim compensation.

New approach

For prosecutors, it is about avoiding the legal burdens associated with charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity, which are difficult to prove.

They therefore decided to rely on the comment of the Human Rights Committee itself in 2019, which considered that victims of an act of aggression (as defined in international law) amounted to a violation of the right to life.

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This interpretation of the law, currently applied to Ukraine, would make it possible to circumvent difficulties such as disproportion or distinction between combatants and civilians. Ultimately, even soldiers fighting against an aggressor could be covered by this interpretation.

During the Vinnitsa attack, Russia claimed it had “targeted a high-level military meeting,” but most of those killed and wounded in the strike were civilians, NGOs noted.

The complaint calls on the Human Rights Committee to determine that Russia violated the victims’ right to life in this attack, among the thousands carried out by Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The committee should also order Moscow to pay reparations. The NGOs refer to the families.

The Human Rights Committee is made up of 18 independent experts responsible for determining whether States are respecting their international obligations. When the Committee finds a violation, it can request redress, including compensation.

He has no way of imposing his conclusions.

compensation for the dead

Andrew Clapham, professor of international law at the Geneva Institute for Advanced Studies, welcomed the initiative. If the commission accepts this new approach, it will no longer be necessary to know whether victims were targeted by mistake or whether fighters were hiding nearby.

None of this matters in the context of the assault. Every death, every act of destruction, every damage to property. […] It can lead to compensation.

Andrew Clapham, Professor of International Law at the Geneva Institute for Advanced Studies

A ruling that favors the plaintiffs’ interpretation is likely to set a precedent for thousands of attacks carried out as part of the Russian invasion, including a deadly missile barrage on Kyiv and other cities this week, with a direct hit on the country’s largest children’s hospital.

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About the Author: Hermínio Guimarães

"Introvertido premiado. Viciado em mídia social sutilmente charmoso. Praticante de zumbis. Aficionado por música irritantemente humilde."

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