Victim participation at the ICC: the Georgian and Ukrainian contexts

30 January 2018

The last ten years have seen Russian military incursions into Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine. The situations arising from both conflicts are being examined by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the primary mechanism for investigations into the crimes of concern to the international community, such as genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. On 30 January 2018, we invited 12 participants from the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) and the Regional Centre for Human Rights (RCHR), EHRAC’s newest partner, to participate in a webinar with Fiona McKay, the former Head of the Victim Participation and Reparations Section of the ICC.

The session was designed to address questions which our participants had previously sent to us, particularly with regards to victim participation at the ICC, such as:

  • What are the rights of victims at the ICC?
  • What are the various stages of victim participation, and which mechanisms provide for this?
  • When is the best time to fill in victims’ application forms?
  • What is the difference between a victim and a witness?
  • What should be included in a communication to the ICC?
  • When should consent for initial disclosure be obtained, and the long term consequences of disclosure?
  • What are the possibilities for challenge/review? How and when can evidence best be used?
  • How can victim protection be ensured?
  • How can NGOs/lawyers working with victims best fulfil a ‘watch dog’ function?
  • What is the difference between torture (Article 8(ii) of the Rome Statute) and wilfully causing great suffering (Article 8(iii))?
  • How can widespread and systematic abuse be evidenced?

“In terms of our ultimate aims of supporting the rule of law and eradicating impunity, the work of the ICC in Georgia and Ukraine is closely linked to the conflict cases which EHRAC and our partners from the region are litigating together. As such, this training session was an excellent opportunity for partners to share experience together and hear from experts in international criminal justice as well as international human rights law. We are certain that increased knowledge of these complementary areas can only benefit victims in the region.”

Joanna Evans, EHRAC Legal Director

All of our participant organisations have previously interacted with the ICC, so we also invited each group to present their experiences so far, and the key issues which they have faced. One of our main aims was for our Ukrainian partners to hear from GYLA, given that the Georgian ICC examination is further advanced than Ukraine’s. Participants found this particularly valuable. As a member of the Georgian National Coalition for the ICC, GYLA has regularly provided briefings and updates to the ICC, and communicating with victims, their legal representatives and the state authorities. UHHRU has so far made two submissions to the ICC on violations in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine. RCHR is a member of the Coalition for the ICC, which includes about 2,500 NGOs from more than 150 countries.

Useful resources on the ICC
Basic ICC materials including Rome Statuterules of procedureelements of crime
A manual for legal representatives of victims
Victims’ representation form for Georgia
Application form for individuals
Guidelines on intermediaries