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Council of Europe sets out principles for holding Russia accountable for war damages

by Martin Fornusek September 12, 2023 9:08 AM 2 min read
The justice ministers of the Council of Europe member and observer states in Riga, Latvia, Sept. 11, 2023. (Source: Council of Europe)
This audio is created with AI assistance

The justice ministers of the Council of Europe member and observer states have adopted the so-called Riga principles, outlining how Russia should be hold accountable for the losses and damages it has caused in Ukraine, the Council announced on Sept. 11.

The ministers highlighted the need to ensure the proper functioning of the register of Damages in Ukraine, a record of evidence and claims for damage, loss, or injury caused by the Russian aggression.

According to the Riga principles, the register should take a victim-centered approach to support the most vulnerable groups in particular, such as women and children.

The Council also stressed the importance of working with national authorities to coordinate the register's functioning. In a long term, the Register is meant to be the first component of a future international compensation mechanism, and a first step to ensure that Russia will pay for the damages caused in Ukraine.

The plan to institute the register was agreed on during the Council's Reykjavík summit in May, and the first constitutive meeting of the Conference of Participants of the Register, gathering representatives from over 40 countries, was held in June.

The tool includes a digital platform with data about claims and evidence collected on the ground in Ukraine.

"All allegations of crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, must be fully investigated and, where warranted, prosecuted at national and international levels in order that those responsible are held accountable for their actions," the press release read.

"Justice must be served for all victims and with the purpose of deterring future war crimes. To that end, we support the investigations and evidence gathering efforts conducted by the Ukrainian authorities, other national authorities and the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)."

The ministers underscored the importance of the ICC's arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova in connection with the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Russia's aggression against Ukraine took a heavy toll on lives, property, and infrastructure. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner said that as of August, it has verified over 9,500 civilians killed and over 17,200 injured as a result of the full-scale war. However, the U.N. agency noted that the actual figures are likely to be considerably higher.

In terms of material recovery and reconstruction, Ukraine will require at least $411 billion, according to an assessment by the World Bank from March. Kyiv seeks to create an international mechanism through which Russia would be mandated to pay for all the damages it has caused.

UN: 292 civilian casualties recorded in first 10 days of September
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 292 civilian casualties in Ukraine from Sept. 1 through Sept. 10, with 55 killed and 237 injured.
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