28th Mar 2023

Strasbourg rights watchdog seeks Russian accountability

Listen to article

The Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog Council of Europe wants Russia to pay for its crimes in Ukraine.

On Tuesday (28 February), its secretary general Marija Pejčinović Burić told EUobserver this includes setting up a new claims register to gather evidence for eventual prosecution and reparations.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We believe that we have the legal framework and the capacity to make this efficient and quick," she said.

Asked if she would like to see Russia's president Vladimir Putin in jail, Burić said it is up to the courts. "I think all perpetrators of the crimes for this horrible war of aggression should stand trial," she added.

The Council of Europe is composed of 46 states, all of which have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights.

For its part, the EU has yet to sign up to the convention, which is enforced by the European Court of Human Rights.

Russia was kicked out of the Council of Europe last March, following its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

The following May, Burić met with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Burić says Zelensky had asked her about setting up an ad hoc tribunal.

This led to the idea of creating a claims register to record and document evidence of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

"We have the European Court for Human Rights that has been dealing with cases that are coming from this war," she said.

"So we have a knowledge how to assess the claims, whether the claims are eligible," she said.

But it is unclear when the register will be up and running.

Burić says she is making a formal proposal this week and hopes a decision will take place at a Council of Europe summit in May in Reykjavik, its fourth summit in 74 years.

She also says that anyone can join the register, even those who are not members of the Council of Europe.

People before buildings

A similar proposal was floated earlier this year by a Russian human rights lawyer Olga Gnezdilova.

Gnezdilova represents victims of the Russian state at the European Court of Human Rights.

Although Russia is no longer a part of the Council of Europe, some 17,000 pending cases can still be deliberated at the court.

Along with Ukrainian counterparts, she said they are seeking to create a pan-European system to support sexual abuse victims of crimes perpetrated by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

The hope is that the support network would entice victims to come forward given that some shun discussing their stories, while others have no where else to turn for help. This includes refugees throughout the EU, she said.

"We know that a lot of NGOs and International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators and other institutions they are ready to document these cases," she said.

"The European Court of Human Rights could deal with such cases, but Russia did not implement the judgments, so this option is closed and the ICC is also an option but it will be available not for every victim," she said.

Gnezdilova said victims should also be compensated by seized Russian oligarch assets in Europe.

"People before buildings. The cities should of course be rebuilt but after the victims," she said.


How Ukrainian women's stories became forgotten by the media

News editors have a responsibility to give more weight to the unique angles that women war reporters bring to stories; to ensure that more women experts are featured in the news; and to focus on stories relevant to women audiences.


How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

A Special Tribunal on Russian war crimes in Ukraine must be convened, because no permanent or existing international judicial institution is endowed with jurisdiction over Russian high-ranking officials, writes the head of the Ukraine delegation to the Council of Europe.


Biden's 'democracy summit' poses questions for EU identity

From the perspective of international relations, the EU is a rare bird indeed. Theoretically speaking it cannot even exist. The charter of the United Nations, which underlies the current system of global governance, distinguishes between states and organisations of states.


EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict

Solar panels, wind-turbines, electric vehicle batteries and other green technologies require minerals including aluminium, cobalt and lithium — which are mined in some of the most conflict-riven nations on earth, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Kazakhstan.

Latest News

  1. Biden's 'democracy summit' poses questions for EU identity
  2. Finnish elections and Hungary's Nato vote in focus This WEEK
  3. EU's new critical raw materials act could be a recipe for conflict
  4. Okay, alright, AI might be useful after all
  5. Von der Leyen pledges to help return Ukrainian children
  6. EU leaders agree 1m artillery shells for Ukraine
  7. Polish abortion rights activist vows to appeal case
  8. How German business interests have shaped EU climate agenda

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us