There Is no Statute of Limitations for Justice
A year ago, Russia launched an all-out war against Ukraine. It wanted to destroy the Ukrainian State and all who defended and supported it. To this end Russia chose a burnt-earth strategy: each town and city that resisted Russia’s attacks was, almost instantly, subject to bombardment and aerial attack that singled out the civilian population and civilian targets. Russia attacked Mariupol, Kharkiv, Okhtyrka, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Sievierodonetsk, Bakhmut, Izium, Kupyansk and other towns and cities. Such indiscriminate and, at times, targeted shelling led to the deaths or wounding of tens of thousands of civilians, tens of thousands of buildings were destroyed. Eight million refugees fled abroad; 5.3 million people within Ukraine moved to less dangerous parts of the country.
In the occupied territories the invaders set about murdering, torturing and abducting civilians, deporting many to Russia. Tens of thousands fell victim to such crimes. The occupying Russian forces have done everything possible to break our will to resist and force us to submit.
Yet our army, our country and the Ukrainian nation have survived, demonstrating their courage, unity and steadfast resistance in the face of a treacherous, more numerous and better armed aggressor. This heroic defence of Ukrainian freedom, with the unconditional backing of the international community, fills us with hope that Ukraine will triumph. That is the main conclusion we draw from the events of 2022.
The crimes committed by the occupier cannot go unpunished. For each offence has led to greater crimes. The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) Initiative has documented more than 33,000 incidents during the past year to which we have given the preliminary classification of acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. The victims of these crimes need justice. Those responsible must be brought to account, put on trial and punished for the damage they’ve inflicted.
What are the prospects that we can attain justice?
No judicial system in the world could investigate so many crimes. Ukraine’s law-enforcement agencies do not possess the necessary resources. An international tribunal will soon be set up by the UN, we hope, to consider the crimes committed by Russia’s political and military leadership. The International Criminal Court at the Hague would examine only the most outrageous offences. Who is going to investigate the other thousands of incidents? How many decades will it take? Will the victims live to see justice and retribution? Without institutional changes in the system whereby crimes are investigated and prosecuted that justice may prove illusory.
Justice must be restored and confirmed by lawful means. For that to happen there must be an effective investigation of all documented incidents and it must be directed, above all, towards restoring the rights of those subjected to war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide. It must function at the national level, yet it is obvious that our present judicial system and system of law-enforcement will be unable to cope with the enormous number of registered crimes. To correct this situation demands a strategy permitting effective investigation at the national level, and that requires changes in legislation and the enhanced capacity of law-enforcement and judicial bodies to pursue the main goal: each victim, each individual who has suffered during this war needs a decision that restores their rights and compensates them for the losses they endured as a result of Russian aggression.
It will be a complex and lengthy process. At the national level it will require a consolidation of our efforts, resources and approaches; it will need the involvement of international partners. Let the famous slogan of 1968 be our guide: “Be realistic, demand the impossible!” Like the crimes with which such investigations and hearings must deal, justice has no statute of limitations. To secure justice depends above all on our own efforts.
Glory to Ukraine!