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  • Writer's pictureBerghof Foundation

Collecting testimony and transitional justice in Ukraine

During an international symposium, we discussed testimony collection during the war in Ukraine and how it can lay the foundations of transitional justice processes.


If Syria was the first war where thousands of civilians and others took footage of violence and destruction with their smartphones, Ukraine is probably the first where evidence of war crimes is being gathered even while the war still rages. A number of highly professional, independent, civil society-led initiatives have been launched to collect legally admissible testimony. While an extremely welcome development, this inevitably also gives rise to concerns over duplication and possibly marring evidence for national and international judicial bodies.

Improving testimony collection

To promote greater mutual understanding and cooperation among those involved, the Berghof Foundation hosted a one-day hybrid symposium on 14 September in collaboration with the recently-established and already applauded The Reckoning Project: Ukraine Testifies to exchange best practices and discuss the role testimony collection plays in broader transitional justice efforts in Ukraine.

The symposium started with a closed-door practitioners’ exchange on current efforts and best practices in the field of testimony collection. In the afternoon, the discussion was opened for an international audience to discuss the findings of the practitioners’ exchange as well as broader questions regarding transitional justice in Ukraine. Speakers included Janine di Giovanni and Nataliya Gumenyuk of The Reckoning Project, Ambassador Anton Korynevych of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Beth Van Schaack (Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice at the US State Department), Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad (CEO of the International Peace Institute and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights), Pablo de Greiff of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, Lise Grande (President of the United States Institute for Peace), international legal expert Philippe Sands as well as the head of the Berghof Foundation’s Global Learning Hub for Transitional Justice and Reconciliation, Natascha Zupan.

The documentation of war crimes has reached an unprecedented level in Ukraine. The sheer volume of reported and documented cases constitutes a considerable challenge for legal practitioners and activists. It is becoming evident that not all cases can be brought to court in a timely manner. This requires a skillful definition of legal strategies as well as a careful management of expectations.

Read the full story at the Berghof Foundation's website here.


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