Committing war crimes have become an integral part of how Moscow wages war and Kyiv shouldn't wait to bring alleged Russian perpetrators to justice, argues Oleksandra Matviychuk, head of the organization that jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
"For decades, Russia has used war as a method of achieving its geopolitical interests and war crimes as a way to win these wars," Matviychuk, who heads the Center for Civil Liberties, told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in an expansive interview. "They learned that they can do whatever they want because they weren't punished for war crimes in Chechnya, Moldova, Georgia, Mali, or in Syria. Therefore, until we can bring justice, there will be no sustainable peace in our region."
Matviychuk, a lawyer by trade, says she wants to use the organization’s elevated stature to call for international action against human rights violations and the growing list of evidence pointing toward war crimes committed by Russian forces since the Kremlin’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
"We see that all these crimes have a systemic nature," she said. "It's clear that this is not done by any specific unit of the Russian armed forces but that it is part of the culture of how Russia conducts war."
Founded in 2007, the Center for Civil Liberties was established with the goal of pressuring Ukrainian authorities to turn the country into a full-fledged democracy and ensure that it was governed by the rule of law. But that mission shifted in 2014 when Moscow forcibly annexed the Crimean Peninsula and fighting with Russian-backed forces broke out in eastern Ukraine, which saw the group begin documenting abuses from the conflict, as well as the disappearances of Kremlin critics, journalists, and activists.
Since Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the organization has worked closely with national and international partners to document potential Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians. So far, they've documented more than 21,000 examples of war crimes committed by Russian forces since 2014, many of which have taken place since Moscow’s February invasion.
"For eight years we have been talking about the fact that Russia is committing war crimes…and for eight years the world has not paid attention to this criminal practice," Matviychuk said. "The Nobel Peace Prize gives us a platform to make our voices heard."
The Search For Accountability
Matviychuk says her growing focus is to gain momentum for efforts to bring perpetrators of alleged war crimes to court.
She points to the Nuremberg Tribunal as an example often brought up as a template. However, unlike those trials that only began to hold Nazi war criminals accountable following Germany’s loss in World War II, Matviychuk argues a similar effort for accountability toward Russia could begin immediately.
"We don't have to wait for Russia to lose. Why do we make people's demands for justice dependent on this?" Matviychuk asks. “We must create an international tribunal now and begin all necessary procedures to bring Russian war criminals to justice.”
Doing so will be no small task.
The Center for Civil Liberties had long campaigned for Ukraine to become affiliated with the International Criminal Court. It is currently a full member, but Kyiv has accepted the court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory since 2013.
Ukraine also needs to navigate the complicated politics at international organizations like the United Nations, where Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and can veto resolutions brought to the body.
Matviychuk is critical of the UN, which she says is “not fulfilling its functions” and is currently hijacked by militarily powerful states. Still, she acknowledges that it remains the best instrument available for an international tribunal that can deliver accountability.
With the Security Council blocked, Matviychuk says Kyiv should concentrate its diplomatic efforts on winning votes at the UN General Assembly, where support from two-thirds of the countries would be needed to pass such a measure. This means Ukraine will need to win over countries like Brazil, India, and many in Africa that have complex and historic relationships with Moscow.
"We need to build support with countries for this idea because this tribunal shouldn’t be created only [because] we gathered five states together and then set up a tribunal," Matviychuk said. "We need legitimacy for this tool…and the best [way to do that] is within the framework of the UN."
Written by Reid Standish in Prague based on reporting by Sofia Sereda for RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service.
Jason Marz/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former romantic partner of Elizabeth Holmes and president of disgraced blood testing company Theranos, was sentenced Wednesday to 155 months, or nearly 13 years, in prison. In addition to 155 months in prison, Balwani was ordered to serve three years of probation after the sentence. “Sunny Balwani did not start Theranos, he did not control Theranos, he did not have final decision-making authority at Theranos,” said Balwani’s attorney, Stephen Cazares. Federal prosecutors indicted Balwani and Holmes in 2018, the same year Holmes agreed to forfeit control of Theranos. In addition to 135 months in prison, Holmes was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after the sentence.5 hours ago WEIS Radio
So it may not come as a surprise to many that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and "the spirit of Ukraine" are officially Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2022. The cover features a profile of Zelenskyy in his classic army-green sweater, surrounded by individual figures and crowds of protesters. But the war has changed Zelenskyy too — and not just because of the physical toll it has taken. Time isn't only praising the president; it's also honoring "the spirit of Ukraine" as its person of the year. Its announcement comes two days after British business publication Financial Times named Zelenskyy its person of the year.13 hours ago SDPB Radio
MAMIRAUÁ RESERVE, Brazil — On this stretch of the Amazon River, you don't need a fish finder to locate the pirarucu, one of the world's largest freshwater fish. In fact, widespread illegal fishing caused the pirarucu to nearly disappear from some parts of the Amazon. Meanwhile, amid the absence of law enforcement along much of the Amazon River, communities have organized their own boat patrols to discourage illegal fishing. However, outside nature reserves, illegal fishing remains a big problem, one that is often financed by drug traffickers. Torres, who had met with Pereira last year to discuss illegal fishing, says the killings shocked Brazilian environmentalists.20 hours ago Wisconsin Public Radio |
Kirstie Alley's love confessions: Star 'fell in love' with Patrick Swayze and 'almost ran off with' John TravoltaFrom left to right: John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Patrick Swayze. In 1991, two years before the pair filmed Look Who's Talking Now, Travolta married Kelly Preston, who in 2020 died from breast cancer. Alley also spoke about falling in love with co-star Patrick Swayze on the 1985 miniseries North and South. Alley also spoke about falling in love with co-star Patrick Swayze on the 1985 miniseries North and South. L to R: Kirstie Alley, John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston pictured in 2007.1 day ago Smooth radio
Do you need a passport to drive to Canada? Do I need a passport to drive to Canada? For U.S. citizens and permanent residents, a valid U.S. passport, passport card, NEXUS card or enhanced driver's license satisfies the requirements. More:Canada lifts COVID-19 travel, border restrictions: What it means for MichigandersMore:48 undeclared bottles of alcohol seized at the Canadian BorderDo children need a passport to drive to Canada? Children under 16 only need a birth certificate or other proof of U.S. citizenship to cross into Canada by land.1 day ago Detroit Free Press
The Hong Kong government said it "deplored" the mistake, but praised Lin and Hong Kong officials for following guidelines and responding immediately. "The [Hong Kong] government recognizes the action taken by the Hong Kong representatives on the spot which upheld national dignity," it said in a statement dated Dec. 3. Hong Kong passed a national anthem law in June 2020 banning “insults” to the Chinese national anthem after Hong Kong soccer fans repeatedly booed, yelled Cantonese obscenities or turned their backs when it was played at matches. Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said the Hong Kong government's request would have bypassed Google's algorithm, which typically displays search results ranked according to popularity. "The high search rankings of ‘Glory to Hong Kong’ tell us about how highly this song is regarded by Hong Kongers," he said.2 days ago Radio Free Asia
England’s aggressive, bold tactics paid off as they clinched a remarkable 74-run victory in the final session of day five in their first Test in Pakistan since 2005. Pakistan resumed after tea in Rawalpindi requiring just 86 more runs to win with five wickets remaining, but England fought back to secure an unlikely victory as the sun began to set over a packed stadium. Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes did not deviate from their attacking and unconventional approach with both bat and ball and were rewarded with a first England away win in 12 Tests. That decision was upheld despite a review, as was the final wicket of Shah. England’s daring declaration at tea on day four had set up a thrilling contest on the final day, tempting Pakistan into going for victory with just 343 runs needed to win on a very flat deck.2 days ago Denbighshire Free Press
Kherson was returned to Ukrainian control on November 11, as the Russian military retreated to the left bank of the Dnieper. Russian artillery took new positions across the river and has been regularly pounding the city with artillery and rockets. Three people were killed the previous day in the city by Russian shelling, Yanushevych said. Maksym Tymchenko, chief executive officer of DTEK, a major power company, said on December 2 that all six of DTEK's power stations had been attacked, some of them several times. He said that in Kyiv, the company was trying to introduce "rolling controlled blackouts: three-four hours of electricity supply, followed by four hours break.2 days ago Radio Free Europe