Our Experts and Resources on Ukraine

3 March 2024

Discover our resources and what our experts and alumni say about the situation in Ukraine, with regular updates to include new events, articles, podcasts and comments.

Third Party Intervention in the ECtHR Case Ukraine v. Russia (X)

In Ukraine and the Netherlands v. Russia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will have the opportunity to clarify and develop several topical points concerning the interpretation and application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in situations of international armed conflict. The magnitude of the events from which the case stems is matched by the importance of the legal determinations that the Court is called upon to make.

The Geneva Academy has been granted leave by the ECtHR to intervene as a third party in this case – along with 26 governments – and submitted its third-party intervention on 28 April 2023.

Reflecting the salience of this case, the intervention focuses on three main subjects: (1) the extraterritorial application of the ECHR in an international armed conflict; (2) the relationship between the ECHR and international legal norms governing recourse to armed force between states (ius ad bellum); (3) the interplay between the ECHR and international humanitarian law (IHL).

This endeavour forms part of the Geneva Academy IHL Expert Pool: by participating in court proceedings such as this, and delivering rigorous and neutral advice on questions pertaining to the interplay between IHL and human rights law, this IHL Expert Pool works to enhance the legal protection afforded victims of armed conflict.

Ukrainian IHL Professor Hosted at the Geneva Academy

The Geneva Academy is hosting during a year Dr Nataliia Hendel, a Professor of international law at the International Humanitarian University in Odesa, Ukraine, and an expert in international humanitarian law (IHL).

Dr Hendel, who fled the conflict in Ukraine, joined the Geneva Academy as a Researcher back in September 2022 under the Programme Scholars at Risk, with funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).

Dr Hendel will pursue her research on the protection of the environment during armed conflicts – with a focus on Ukraine – during her time at the Geneva Academy.

‘I am very grateful to the Geneva Academy for hosting me during these difficult times and for welcoming the Ukrainian experience, understanding and practice in IHL’ says Dr Nataliia Hendel.

IHL Talk – Russia and Ukraine

This IHL Talk  addressed some of the legal issues stemming from the current armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Panelists notably discussed the humanitarian impact of unilateral sanctions and challenges raised by the use of force against Ukraine, with a particular focus on the justifications provided by Russia. They also analyzed the conflict from an international humanitarian law perspective, focusing on instances of clear violations and more controversial ones.

 

Russia and Ukraine

This IHL Talk  addressed some of the legal issues stemming from the current armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Panelists notably discussed the humanitarian impact of unilateral sanctions and challenges raised by the use of force against Ukraine, with a particular focus on the justifications provided by Russia. They also analyzed the conflict from an international humanitarian law perspective, focusing on instances of clear violations and more controversial ones.

IHL TalK – The Wagner Group: Options for Justice

This IHL Talk aimed at clarifying the relevant frameworks of responsibility for the crimes committed by the Wagner troops. Panelists notably addressed the following questions:

  • What is the status of Wagner Group members, are they PMSCs, mercenaries, or de facto members of the Russian armed forces? What legal framework governs their status?
  • Could the conduct of Wagner Group members be attributable to Russia or could Russia nevertheless have certain positive obligations – under international humanitarian law and international human rights law – in relation to crimes carried out by Wagner troops?
  • What are the avenues for holding the members of the Wagner Group criminally responsible and could the question of command responsibility of the Wagner Group leaders and Russian officials arise?

 

The Wagner Group: Options for Justice

Watch or re-watch our  IHL Talk on accountability for the Wagner Group and its members.

Panelists notably discussed:

- The status of Wagner Group members: PMSCs, #mercenaries, or de facto members of the Russian armed forces and the legal framework that governs this status.

- Whether the conduct of Wagner Group members be attributable to Russia

- The avenues for holding the members of the Wagner Group criminally responsible and whether the question of command responsibility of the Wagner Group leaders and Russian officials arises.

IHL Talk – Changing the Rules of the (Nuclear) Game: Voices from the Humanitarian, Technological, Strategic and Legal Fields

This IHL Talk discussed nuclear weapons, their humanitarian impact, the impact of technological advancements, the relevance of the deterrence narrative and implications on the international legal framework.

Changing the Rules of the (Nuclear) Game: Voices from the Humanitarian, Technological, Strategic and Legal Fields

In this IHL Talk on nuclear weapons and their place in the contemporary world, panelists discussed the humanitarian impact, the impact of technological advancements, the ongoing relevance of the deterrence narrative and the implications on the international legal framework, including the scope for international norms to circumscribe and govern technological and strategic dynamics.

IHL TalK – Special Tribunal for Aggression: Worth the Risk(s)?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered heated debate on whether the international community should strive for the establishment of a 'Special Tribunal for Aggression'.

This IHL Talk explored various issues related to the potential establishment of a 'Special Tribunal for Aggression' and will discuss whether such a special tribunal is the best or at least the most appropriate option to make sure that the crime of aggression does not go unpunished.

Special Tribunal for Aggression: Worth the Risk(s)?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered heated debate on whether the international community should strive for the establishment of a 'Special Tribunal for Aggression'. Panelists explores various legal issues related to the potential establishment of such a tribunal and discussed whether such a special tribunal is the best or at least the most appropriate option to make sure that the crime of aggression does not go unpunished.

Swissuniversities' Statement on Russia's Intervention in Ukraine

The Geneva Academy is a member, via our two parent institutions, of swissuniversities, the umbrella organisation of the Swiss universities.

On 27 February 2022, swissuniversities strongly condemned Russia's intervention in Ukraine as a violation of international law.

By Our Experts and Professors

Participation in Investigation Missions and Reports

OSCE mission to investigate violations of IHL and international human rights law in Ukraine

International Legal Working Group on Accountability for International Crimes Committed in Ukraine

Report of the Legal Review Panel on the Amnesty International Press Release Concerning Ukrainian Fighting Tactics of 4 August 2022

  • Professor Marco Sassòli – along with Emanuel -Chiara Gillard (University of Oxford), Kevin Jon Heller (University of Copenhagen), Eric Talbot Jensen (Brigham Young University) and Marko Milanovic (University of Reading) – was part of a legal panel of expert established by Amnesty International (AI) to review AI press release Ukraine: Ukrainian fighting tactics endanger civilians published on 4 August 2022. The panel's report represents the unanimous position of the panel members. Their findings are meant to feed into a broader independent critical incident review commissioned by AI.

Participation in Events and Conferences

  • Our two Researcher Fellows Dr Jonathan Andrew and Dr Nataliia Hendel participated, on behalf of the Geneva Academy, in a major summit in Lviv, Ukraine, organized by the American Society of International Law and the Ukrainian Association of International Law to mark the 75th anniversary of the Genocide Convention and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 2023).

Blog Posts and Articles

  • On War: blog post by Professor Andrew Clapham in which he discusses – based on his recent book War – whether there are any legal implications behind the designation ‘war’ in this conflict and beyond (5 March 2022).

Podcasts and Videos

  • Our Faculty Series: our former Teaching Assistant Dr Pavle Kilibada interviews Professor Andrew Clapham about his recent book ‘War’ and the armed conflict in Ukraine, including about how to ensure accountability for alleged war crimes (2 June 2022).
  • The Rules of War: in this Matrix Law Podcast (Episode 30), Professor Andrew Clapham discusses the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, examines the facts through the prism of international law, and explores how international law can be applied and how it might help to calibrate the actions and reactions of the warring parties (15 March 2022).

In the Media

  • Ucraina: un mese di guerraProfessor Paola Gaeta discusses (in Italian from 25:18) the documentation of violations of IHL in Ukraine and prosecutions related to the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression (24 March 2022).

Participation in Statements

By our Alumni

Participation in Events and Conferences

Online Discussion: The OSCE Moscow Mechanism report on violations of International Law committed following Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Mariana Katzarova, an alumna of our Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict and the Founder and Chair of RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in War) participated, in this oline discussion along with our two faculty members Professors Marco Sassòli and Andrew Clapham (16 May 2022).

Blog Posts and Articles

In the Media

RULAC Online Portal

We are constantly updating our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal and its entries related to the crisis: the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the non-international armed conflicts in Eastern Ukraine with the self-proclaimed ‘People’s Republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk. RULAC also provides information about the military occupation of Crimea by Russia since July 2014.

These entries and RULAC also provide information on classification and applicable international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international criminal law.

The Digitalization of Armed Conflict

Cyber attacks form an integral part of the current armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Our projects on the digitalization of conflict address some of the main issues of contention concerning the application of international law, including IHL and international human rights law, to military cyber operations with notably three papers: 

Guidelines on Investigating Violations of International Humanitarian Law

The Guidelines on Investigating Violations of International Humanitarian Law: Law, Policy and Good Practice – co-published with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) – provide key guidance to states aiming to conduct investigations of IHL violations, but also to other bodies and individuals seeking a more detailed understanding of investigations in armed conflict.

This document – the first of its kind – is notably available in Russian and Ukrainian.

Protecting Persons with Disabilities

Our research on disability and armed conflict highlighted the devastating impact conflict has on persons with disabilities and that many of the key IHL provisions that serve to minimize the impact of armed conflict – such as the proportionality assessment and advanced effective warnings – are not being applied in a disability inclusive manner, resulting in persons with disabilities being killed, seriously injured or left behind as families flee armed attacks.

Building on this research and its recommendations, our Military Briefing: Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflict provides guidance to the armed forces on how to integrate a disability perspective into military manuals and the training of their militaries. This paper offers a number of concrete recommendations on specific areas, showing the possibility to integrate a disability perspective into military manuals and military operations.

For example, it details the meaning of ‘accessible warnings’ to persons in the vicinity of armed attacks, and sets our feasible measures regarding the treatment of prisoners of war with disability, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

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