Ukrainian Lawyers and Bar Associations: Joint Call to the World about Genocide in Ukraine
Thursday, 7 April 2022
We, the undersigned, representing the community of Ukrainian lawyers, appeal to the 152 countries, Contracting Parties of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention).
We urge you to observe your international obligation to prevent and to punish the international crime of genocide (per Article I of the Genocide Convention). This erga omnes obligation stems from a peremptory rule from which no derogation is permitted and which knows no territorial limits.
Under international law, your obligation to prevent the crime of genocide, and the corresponding duty to act, have arisen at the instant that you have learned of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide would be committed.
The international community has been aware of and expressed concerns about what can be viewed as evidence of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes carried out by Russia’s state organs and agents against Ukrainians as a national group.
The world is yet to see the full scale of Russia’s acts of barbarity. However, it is unnecessary to wait for further affirmation of Russia’s brutalities or new atrocities. You must act now to comply with your obligations to prevent and stop those crimes and ensure accountability for violations already committed.
Genocide, as defined by Article II of the Genocide Convention, includes acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
– Killing members of the group; – Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; – Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; – Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and – Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
A fraction of the facts that has already been documented and confirmed by independent observers include as of 4 April 2022 the followings (however, there are many more which are yet to be recorded and reported):
Deliberate killing of civilians, torture and mass rapes. Scenes from the towns and villages in Kyiv oblast recently liberated from Russia’s forces include bodies of hundreds of civilians, including children, women and elderly, buried in mass graves. Others on the streets or in basements with hands tied, shot in the head from behind or otherwise from close proximity. Bodies wrapped in plastic, bound with tape and thrown into a ditch. Bodies of women shot dead and then run over by Russian tanks. Bodies of women, repeatedly raped, killed and in an apparent attempt to dispose of set on fire. These scenes are not unique to the territories of Kyiv oblast previously occupied by Russia’s forces. Human rights organisations report mass rapes and summary executions in the occupied areas of Chernihiv and Kharkiv regions.
An ongoing unprecedented campaign of Russia’s deliberate shelling of civilian houses, residential buildings, hospitals, schools, and kindergartens in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Izium, Okhtyrka, and many other places in Ukraine, to install fear, suppress opposition and enforce subjugation.
Russia’s denial of humanitarian assistance to those requiring it. There are multiple humanitarian catastrophes in besieged and occupied Russian forces are killing hundreds of Ukrainian civilians trying to escape the war, despite multiple previous guarantees of "safe passages" and "humanitarian corridors".
Mass deportations of Ukrainian civilians from the occupied territories. Around 40,000 of Ukrainian citizens, among whom there are at least 2,389 children, have already been reportedly forcibly deported to Russia or Belarus.
Russian perpetrators’ specific intent to commit the genocide of Ukrainians by destroying, in whole or in part, Ukrainians as a national group, i.e. ‘a collection of people who are perceived to share a legal bond based on common citizenship, coupled with reciprocity of rights and duties’, is apparent from the following particular circumstances:
– The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has unambivalently explained that Russian state policy is to target Ukrainians as a national group and deny Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign nation. Russia’s President claimed that Ukraine was "entirely created by Russia", and further suggested that Ukrainians are Russians who must be "corrected" by force — "cleansed" or "spat out". The declared aims of Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine are "denazification" and "demilitarisation" of Ukraine which effectively mean President Putin’s asserted licence to kill or deport and re-educate/indoctrinate Ukrainians.
– Russia’s targeting of civilians, including intentional crimes against women and girls (mass rape, killing and forced deportation). Such crimes, reportedly often perpetrated in front of family members, are aimed at subjugating and humiliating both a female victim as well as her family unit and their larger affiliation with the national group.
– Russia’s use of indiscriminate weapons deliberately targeting Ukrainian civilian population.
– Russia’s denial of humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian civilians kept hostage by Russia’s forces, which is an act of deliberate infliction on civilians of conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction, deep psychological trauma and cause more innocent civilian casualties.
– Russia’s use of mobile crematoria and mass graves to hide the true number of Ukrainian civilians murdered by Russians. For instance, in December 2021, Russia adopted a special Official Regulation providing for guidelines for burial of corpses in mass graves, cremation or water burial.
– Russia’s intentional or deliberately indiscriminate attacks against Ukrainian cultural heritage. Russia has destroyed or damaged museums, theatres, historic buildings, monuments and religious buildings. At least 53 culturally important sites have been damaged according to the statement of UNESCO Deputy Director-General for culture from 1 April 2022. Russia has been also conducting "deliberate hunting on teachers" and destroying Ukrainian literature, especially books on Ukrainian history and freedom fighting / independence movement. The Russian service people also kidnap and kill the priests of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
– Russia’s targeting of Ukrainian activists, journalists, politicians and others vocal patriots by use of so-called "kill lists" and deployment of mercenaries and assassins. Russia does not stop there. For Russia, a pro-Ukrainian position or speaking Ukrainian is a sufficient pretext for persecution/ extermination.
– Russia incites hatred against Ukrainians through its state-owned media outlets calling to purge and "re-educate" Ukrainians, forcing them to renounce Ukrainian national identity. A recent publication by Timofei Sergeytsev "What Russia Must Do to Ukraine" in RIA Novosti (state media, part of Russia Today Group) chillingly called for "re-education" of the majority of Ukrainian population through "harsh censorship" in the fields of "not only politics, but also culture and education", prohibition of the name "Ukraine" for any puppet "people's republics" to be created by Russia instead of Ukraine, and stating that "denazification of Ukraine in fact means its deukrainisation", i.e. fight against Ukrainian culture and identity as a separate national group.
– Russia’s propagandists, including Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russian state media Russia Today, degrading Ukrainians by stating that the significant part of Ukrainian population are Nazis with "animal nature".
These patterns of criminal conduct evidently correspond to the elements of the crime of genocide under Articles II (a), (b), (c) and (e) of the Genocide Convention, and in any case satisfy the test for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Preamble to the Genocide Convention makes it abundantly clear that international cooperation is required to prevent genocide. We urge that each Contracting Party of the Genocide Convention stay true to the purpose of the Convention, comply with its international obligations, and employ all means reasonably available to it that might contribute to preventing Russia’s further genocide against Ukraine, including:
– Enhance Ukrainian defence capabilities by, among other, providing Ukraine with weapons required by Ukraine’s armed forces, to enable Ukraine to defend itself, stop Russian terror and protect Ukrainian people from further
– Impose a total comprehensive unconditional embargo on Russia’s energy resources, including oil, gas and coal.
– Intensify sanctions against Russia and Belarus, including:
Disconnect all Russian and Belarusian banks from SWIFT;
Prohibit the export to Russia and Belarus of particles that can be used to manufacture missiles, bombs and other weaponry or military machinery without any exception; precursors that may be used for constructing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons; military technologies, software etc. that is used by the armed forces, police or any other body exercising same functions. Provide for criminal liability for those evading sanctions via shipment through the third countries or by any other means;
Sanction persons/entities that directly or indirectly trade arms, fuels etc. with Russia and Belarus or otherwise contribute to production/supply of weaponry to Russia and Belarus;
Strengthen the existing sanctions regime by preventing delays in implementation and eliminating loopholes and a variety of exceptions that have been widely abused;
Close ports for Russia’s vessels or vessels hired by any Russian companies; prohibit leasing of vessels, providing crew services and bunkering services to Russian entities or entities shipping goods purchased from Russian entities;
Prohibit investing in Russia and Belarus, including through provision of financing or locally incorporated businesses, or maintaining investments in Russia and Belarus;
Promptly diversify supply chains in order to halt the trade with Russia and Belarus, including suspension of customs clearance of the Russian and Belarusian products as well as prohibiting logistics companies from providing transportation and storing services with regard to imports from Russia and Belarus;
Suspend scientific, cultural and technical cooperation with Russian and Belarusian government and entities as well as with any other entity under Russian or Belarusian jurisdiction;
Prohibit teaching/training of Russian and Belarusian persons in relation to production of any kind of weaponry or related types of technologies.
Demand all international businesses to immediately stop their business activities in Russia and with its state and private companies.
– Support by all possible means efforts to investigate and prosecute the ongoing crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
– Step up humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and bordering states to alleviate the living conditions of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, who were forced to flee their homes from Russian aggression.
We urge the international community to take immediate and decisive measures to honour your international obligations of the highest order! The massacre of Ukrainians must be stopped immediately.