23.09.2022

Tribunal for Putin Initiative call on the world not allow Russia to legalize “legal offshore” in the occupied territories in order to avoid responsibility

The Centre for Civil Liberties and the Tribunal for Putin Initiative call on the world to force the Russian Federation to obey international law in all occupied areas

In 2014, as a result of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation (RF), it occupied parts of Ukraine’s territory: the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, and parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. The territory of the Crimean Peninsula was annexed outright by the RF, while a military administration was established in the occupied parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, labelled, respectively, “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) and “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”).

Formally, republics have been proclaimed in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, they are alleged to have constitutions and various government bodies. But in fact, these territories are administered solely by the “leaders” of the “DPR” and “LPR” who are appointed by the RF. Most laws are copies of the Russian legislation there.

On the part of the RF, these territories were and are administered through the so-called “curators”, who have issued direct instructions regarding the appointment of leadership in the government bodies and the adoption of any necessary decisions. The so-called “LPR” and “DPR” are essentially military administrations of the occupied districts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts which are fully and directly controlled by the RF. The RF effectively appoints the “head” of the administration, provides all funding, makes key decisions that are implemented by the administration, ensures the supply of goods and services, fully controls the area and all military formations.

The bodies purported to be “courts” in the Russian occupation administrations “LPR” and “DPR” were built on the basis of their field military “courts” that appeared since 2014. They do not meet any requirements for judicial institutions set forth by international law, since they do not enjoy any guarantees of independence and do not even formally provide any rights to the defendants. For a considerable period of time, they even operated without procedural codes. In terms of the appointment and dismissal procedures, the nature of judicial proceedings, they are strongly similar to the so-called “troikas” that existed in the USSR era. In view of this, even the very use of the term “DPR court” is erroneous, since this body does not have the usual attributes of such institution. Accordingly, decisions made by these bodies should be considered as extrajudicial punishments, and decisions imposing, for example, the death penalty should be treated as “extrajudicial executions”.

Since the beginning of the expansion of the Russian Federation’s aggression in February 2022, the so-called “LPR” and “DPR” authorities have lost even minimal operational autonomy and have become directly subordinated to the FSB, the armed forces of the RF, and other relevant departments of the RF. The Russian armed forces were openly sent into Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, and local armed formations were ordered to fully obey them and carry out all their orders.

According to international law, it is the country that occupied an area, namely the RF in this case, that exercises complete general and actual control over what is happening in this area, and is responsible for it.

The RF actively uses the notions “LPR” and “DNR” to try and avoid responsibility for committing international crimes in this area. The formal preservation of their artificial independent status is purported to allow the RF not to apply international law, Ukrainian legislation, or even the legislation of the RF in these areas. As a result, according to the reports of Ukrainian authorities, mass media, Ukrainian and international organisations, the following international crimes are committed in these areas:

  1. Mass arbitrary detentions and arrests;
  2. Mass extrajudicial executions;
  3. Mass enforced disappearances of civilians in which representatives of military administrations are complicit;
  4. The Russian Federation has created modern types of concentration camps in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (as well as in other occupied territories of Ukraine and in the territory of the Russian Federation) to hold Ukrainian citizens without any charges and without any legal justification, including:
  5. prisoners of war (this allows not to recognise such people as prisoners of war in the RF and, accordingly, not to return them to Ukraine);
  6. civilian hostages who are not Ukrainian combatants and, accordingly, prisoners of war, but were captured by the armed forces of the Russian Federation, and who are being held without charge or any legal grounds for a long time;
  7. civilians who were fleeing armed aggression and ended up in so-called “filtration camps”, where they are held for a long time without charges and without legal grunds.
  8. In the modern concentration camps of the RF, created on the territory of occupied Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, mass crimes are committed, including:
  9. Holding people in inhumane conditions, often without water and food, without medical care, in overcrowded facilities, which effectively amounts to torture and ill-treatment;
  10. Systematic beatings and torture, rapes;
  11. Arbitrary executions;
  12. Deportation of the Ukrainian population to the RF;
  13. Forced mobilisation of all males over 18;
  14. Other crimes.

These crimes can be significantly reduced if the attention of the Ukrainian government, other nations, and the national and global media will make Russia understand that the RF alone exercises control over the occupied territories, and it is the RF that is fully responsible for all illegal acts taking place there. The “LPR” and “DPR” or their government bodies, including courts, do not exist as autonomous actors. Therefore, international law, Ukrainian or Russian legislation should apply in these areas.

Given this, we believe that:

  1. The Russian Federation, and it alone, is responsible for all acts taking place in the occupied areas of Ukraine.
  2. We advise avoiding using the names “LPR” and “DPR” on their own, since such names do not reflect the actual administration structure in these areas. These areas may be called “Russian-occupied areas of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts” or “Russian military occupation administration acting as LPR/DPR”, while local authorities may be called occupation authorities or occupation administration of the Russian Federation.
  3. The trial planned to be held by a court in a Russian-occupied area, namely the city of Mariupol, is not legitimate, as the very existence and functioning of this court contradict international law, the legislation of Ukraine and even the legislation of the Russian Federation.
  4. Any sentences that may be handed down in Mariupol, in particular in the context of the possible execution of the “accused”, should be treated under international law, the legislation of Ukraine and the Russian Federation as “extrajudicial sentences and executions”. Accordingly, their execution will constitute an international war crime, for which the representatives of the Russian Federation and the occupation administration will be held responsible.
  5. All sentences of the so-called “court of the DPR” should be considered as “extrajudicial sentences”, as they contradict international law, the legislation of Ukraine and the RF.
  6. Since the death penalty has been abolished in Ukraine, and a moratorium on its execution has been established in the Russian Federation, the execution of these sentences in the occupied area will constitute extrajudicial executions and, accordingly, should be treated as an international crime committed by representatives of the Russian Federation.
  7. The RF must recognize all persons held in the occupied areas of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts as prisoners of war in accordance with the requirements of international humanitarian law, and all non-combatants must be immediately released in accordance with the requirements of international humanitarian law.
  8. The RF must immediately open corridors for the departure of civilians from the occupied areas to Ukraine in accordance with the requirements of the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
  9. International organisations, including the UN and the OSCE, must demand that the Russian Federation comply with the requirements of international law in all occupied areas, including Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, as well as ensure an investigation of international crimes that are being committed constantly in the occupied areas, taking care that this investigation is independent of the Russian Federation.

“Tribunal for Putin”

The global initiative Breaking the Vicious Circle of Russia’s Impunity for Its War Crimes” (“Tribunal for Putin” in short) was created in response to the full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation in February 2022.

The initiative is launched to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the context of the Russian Federation’s armed aggression against Ukraine.

The participants of the initiative document the events that show signs of atrocity crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in all regions of the country that were attacked or suffered collateral damage.

The initiative is actively working at the international level to use existing mechanisms in the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE (including Moscow Mechanism), the EU and the International Criminal Court to stop the brutality of these violations.

The uniqueness of the initiative lies in the fact that its documentation methodology allows daily reproduction of the chronology of the commission of war crimes, starting from February 24, in all afflicted regions, from big cities to the smallest settlement.

Currently, this is the only initiative that has built a network based on regional organizations representation, each of which is responsible for a specific area of Ukraine and has been working there for years before the start of Russia’s illegal aggression.

The full list of the initiative members is as follows (updating): Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Center for Civil Liberties, Truth Hounds, La Strada, Environment People Law, Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Organization “Moloda Prosvita”, Chuhuiv Human Rights Protection Group, Northern Human Rights Protection Group, Cherkasy Human Rights Protection Center, Kherson Regional Foundation for Compassion and Health, Kherson branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, Territory of Success in Khmelnytskyi, Odesa regional branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, NGO “MART” in Chernihiv, Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv, Podil Legal League, Human Rights Group “SICH” in Dnipro, “SIM” Legal and Political Research Center in Lviv, NGO “Bakhmat” and other organizations.

The Appeal was signed by:

Center for Civil Liberties

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

ISAR Ednannia

NGO “Docudays”

Association of Project Managers of Ukraine

Charity and Health Fund

To sign the petition, please fill out the following form: https://forms.gle/UEyZN2DaWKC2VTS3A

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