Back How to document violation of social rights during the war - training supported by the Council of Europe Project

Kyiv, Ukraine 25 October 2022
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How to document violation of social rights during the war -  training supported by the Council of Europe Project

On October 24-25 2022, a training on monitoring violations of social human rights in Ukraine during the war was held in an online format with the support of  Council of Europe project “Continued support to promoting social human rights in Ukraine”.

"The creation of proper social conditions for the life of citizens is an important part of the sustainable democratic development of the state. The state may experience difficulties in fully ensuring people's social rights during the war and as a result of war crimes committed by the enemy. However, it is worth making every effort, including attracting international support, so that people's social rights, including the right to work, education and health care, are ensured. Therefore, our project gladly supported the training," said Siuzanna Mnatsakanian, Senior Project Officer, Council of Europe Project “Continued support to promoting social human rights in Ukraine”

"Monitoring violations of social human rights during the war and documenting war crimes committed by russian troops in Ukraine is an important stage in the process of bringing perpetrators to justice. That is why there was a need to train specialists to carry out such work," emphasized Maksym Shcherbatyuk, program director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

During the event, the participants received information and tools regarding the monitoring of socio-economic rights and details of recording and documenting violations of these rights and war crimes related to social infrastructure.

In particular, trainers - specialists of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Maksym Shcherbatyuk, Serhiy Movchan, Bohdan Moysa presented the methodology and indicators of monitoring socio-economic rights in Ukraine, including the definition of the main principles of measuring and recording violations in this area, talked about the practical use of this methodology. In addition, the speakers told how to record cases of destruction of social infrastructure objects and document war crimes.

Monitoring of violations of social human rights

During the training, three sections of social rights were covered - labor, education and health.

The right to work includes the right of every person to have the opportunity to earn his/her living in an occupation freely entered upon.

The right to education includes the availability of appropriate educational institutions, professional teaching staff with appropriate remuneration, educational materials, etc. The economic, geographic and physical accessibility of schools for all, including the most vulnerable groups, and the relevance of education to the needs of students, within their cultural and social norms.

The right to health  includes access to medical services and information. Ensuring this right is closely related to other areas, in particular: living and food conditions, environment, information.

Monitoring involves the analysis of legislation including by-laws, state strategies and programs, statistical reports and other administrative data, court practice, reports of the Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on human rights, as well as reports of government institutions. At the local level - local programs, administrative data of local authorities and local self-government should be analyzed, and the level of ensuring social human rights should be assessed through observation. Open sources, results of public opinion polls should be analyzed. Direct organization and conducting of surveys by the monitoring group is also envisaged.

Documentation of war crimes

War crimes in the social sphere, for example, include attacks on or bombing by any means of cities, villages, buildings that are unprotected and are not military objects; deliberately targeting buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charity, historical monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are kept, unless they are military facilities; the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of a part of its own civilian population to the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or part of the population of the occupied territory within or outside that territory; violation of personal dignity, in particular behavior that offends or degrades dignity; starving, etc.

The experts noted that the documentation of events related to war crimes can be done by interviewing potential witnesses and victims of war crimes, photo and video recording of the consequences of war crimes, and monitoring of open sources.

Regarding the interviewing, it is important to follow the principle of informed consent when collecting information about serious human rights violations. All victims and witnesses must give their informed consent before they are interviewed, examined, photographed, their information recorded, referred to any support services or their information and contact details provided to third parties.

In the case of recording through photography, it is necessary to additionally draw up a protocol at the scene of the event with the involvement of witnesses (preferably two persons) who must confirm the stated circumstances with their signatures. The facts of the destruction/damage of objects on the territory of Ukraine should be recorded as soon as possible after the act of aggression by the Russian Federation that caused its destruction/damage. These steps should be followed:

  • Take a series of photos to get good quality images from different angles. At the same time, remember that quality has priority over quantity.
  • Photos should move from the exterior to the interior of the crime scene and from general to specific focus.
  • Take close-up and medium-close photos of individual pieces of information.
  • Take wide-angle photos that show the location of information in the context of the entire scene.
  • Use a ruler next to the corresponding objects to indicate their dimensions.

When collecting information from open sources, it is necessary to collect data from several sources (preferably from those that deserve trust) to record a specific episode. Telegram channels are currently the largest in terms of information about events in Ukraine. Unlike the official media, they publish more content and with greater efficiency. However, it should be remembered that their content is formed from the messages of citizens, albeit with possible pre-moderation. Therefore, Telegram channels are not immune to fakes. In addition, the public in social networks that have distinct pro-Russian themes are NOT trustworthy. The information obtained from them can be used with the greatest care and verification. It is highly desirable to have a second source for confirmation. Especially if such information contains accusations of crimes against the Ukrainian military.

You can transfer information about recorded war crimes to the special resource, created by the Prosecutor General's Office together with Ukrainian and international partners for the proper documentation of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian army in Ukraine.

Facts about war crimes can also be sent to the addresses of public centers of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, which document war crimes:

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