Investigation of war crimes in Donbas: achievements, problems and prospects

On 10th June 2020, the Representation of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Ukraine together with the “Donbas Gates” NGO organized a webinar “Investigation of war crimes in Donbas: achievements, problems and prospects”. As in the last six years Ukraine almost 14 000 people died, around 31 000 got injured and up to two million people lost their homes during the war in the East of Ukraine, it is crucial to identify, collect, and investigate numerous war crimes, committed on the territory of Ukraine. 

However, the investigation of such grievous violations of international humanitarian law as war crimes requires thorough preparation and data gathering. In Ukraine, it is primarily done by the General Prosecutor Office and the Prosecutor’s Office in Donetsk and Luhansk Regions. Sergiy Zayets, Deputy Prosecutor of Donetsk region and his colleagues, presented the duties of his office, namely a department for supervision in criminal proceedings of the crimes, committed in the armed conflict. They include collection, proceeding and analysis of evidence and information on offences against the national security of Ukraine, peace and security of humankind and crimes committed in the armed conflict. This department has a procedural control in criminal proceedings of crimes against the national security of Ukraine and other crimes, related to the armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine. It is also responsible for registration and investigation of the facts of shelling of the civilian population and infrastructure. Besides, this department maintains the register of destroyed and damaged infrastructure gathers and prepares the materials for their further transmission to the international courts. 

Dr. habil. Galyna Mykhailiuk, Deputy Head of the Committee on Law Enforcement, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine presented in her speech the legislation which pertains to the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine, as well as rights and freedoms of the citizens and legal regime on the temporarily occupied territories. She also presented a draft Law “On the Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine Regarding Implementation of International Criminal and Humanitarian Laws” (№ 2689). It harmonizes Ukraine’s legislation with the Rome Statute of the ICC, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as well as enshrines the ideas of the European Convention on Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and introduces universal jurisdiction for the crime of aggression, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The presentation of Dr habil. Galyna Mykhailiuk can be accessed here

Dr. Kateryna Busol, Robert Bosch Stiftung Academy Fellow, Chatham House presented her vision of the registration and collection of the facts of war crimes in Ukraine, underlining that there is no single documentation centre. However, she also stated that there is good cooperation between the authorities and civil society. An example of this can be seven joint communications to the Prosecutor’s office of the ICC from Ukraine. Kateryna Busol also shed light on the terminology, which is being used in Ukrainian legislation. In particular, she underlined a legal uncertainty of a term “occupied territories” which is used for the war-affected territories. In her opinion, it is quite problematic that Ukraine uses this definition as it lacks a legal assessment of Russia’s control over these territories. There is mounting evidence of Russia’s presence on these territories (equipment, training, etc.), but it should be formalized and specified.  

The whole discussion can be accessed at


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