Anniversary of the invasion: IBA condemns the Russia’s aggression and promises to work on holding to account


KYIV — February 24, 2023. The International Bar Association (IBA), in a statement regarding the anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, reiterated its condemnation of the Russian aggression and looked at what the future holds for holding to account the aggressor and others who may have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

“We have witnessed a flagrant breach of the law for a year now. We are experiencing a great threat to democracy and justice. The international legal community, with the IBA acting as its common voice, has reacted not only by supporting Ukraine on all possible legal fronts, but also by reaffirming the fundamental values of our profession”, commented Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama, IBA President.

She emphasized that he IBA will make every possible effort to ensure there will be legal accountability, including individual criminal liability.

“Finally, I express again today my solidarity and admiration for our Ukraine colleagues who continue performing their duties before their clients and their country in the worst circumstances”, IBA President concluded.

The IBA recalled that in 2022 the Association and Andriy Kostin, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation to ensure accountability for war crimes and other international crimes including the crime of aggression. To ensure the effective representation of cases concerning war crimes, the IBA has also signed an MOU with Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice and Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision that sets out the terms of support for free legal aid provision.

In addition, an IBA-Ukraine Ministry of Defense MOU is being drafted with a focus on the improvement of the legislative framework to ensure proper defense in cases concerning military crimes.

The IBA also mentioned that since condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has ringfenced more than USD 200,000 for humanitarian and technical support for the Ukrainian Bar Association and the Ukrainian National Bar Association.

Dr Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director, emphasized that the Association will continue to implement the various MOUs with Ukraine’s governmental entities, and provide expert knowledge and training to Ukraine to support efforts towards accountability and justice.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unconscionable, and as we mark one year since the military assault, it is imperative that we remind ourselves what is at stake regarding international law. At this time, the conflict in Ukraine shows no signs of abating. It is indisputable that widespread, systematic and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects have been committed over the course of this war. The international community has a responsibility to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, including the creation of a special tribunal for the crime of aggression”, said Dr Mark Ellis.

Since the start of the full-scale war, Ukraine’s legal organizations and Prosecutor General have encouraged the widespread use of the IBA-founded eyeWitness to Atrocities app. This tool is being used to amass verified documentary evidence of war crimes in a way that is compliant with international legal standards in domestic or international trials. To date, more than 32,000 images and videos have been received, with items submitted to the United Nations-mandated International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. The UBA acts as a partner of the IBA in Ukraine on issues of documenting evidence of war crimes.

In addition, Ukraine’s legal profession has found much support from the IBA’s vast network of lawyers from across the globe, who in solidarity have provided pro bono efforts in numerous areas, including anti-trust, environmental damage, war crimes and asset recovery, as well as hosting webinar discussions and interviewing Ukrainian lawyers who remain working in Ukraine.

The full text of the IBA’s statement is available via the link.