Legal app captures evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

Video and photographic evidence of war crimes in Ukraine that is captured with a new legal app could be used to prosecute Vladimir Putin.

As the International Criminal Court (ICC) prepares to launch proceedings against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, an International Bar Association (IBA) project is collating evidence of war crimes that can be submitted for this case and more.

The “eyeWitness to Atrocities” app enables users to record photos and videos that meet the “rigorous standards” of a court of law. The team behind the app will then analyse and catalogue the footage before creating dossiers of evidence to submit to tribunals such as the ICC to assist with their pursuit of justice.

Director of eyeWitness Wendy Betts said that with so much disinformation around the war, it had been a challenge to capture reliable photographic and video evidence.

“Given the risks that individuals are taking to gather this information, it is important that it can be used to seek justice. A project of the International Bar Association, eyeWitness provides documenters with the technology and legal expertise they need to capture verifiable footage and deliver it directly to investigators,” Ms Betts said.

The eyeWitness team is also behind the Ukrainian Resources Hub, which provides comprehensive resources to civil society groups, journalists and Ukrainian residents. It includes materials for documenters to learn how to identify war crimes against persons and objects and what photographic evidence they need to collect.

IBA executive director Dr Mark Ellis commented: “With the chief prosecutor of the ICC initiating an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, the documentation of crimes through videos and pictures will play a vital role in the court’s efforts to ensure those who have committed war crimes are brought to justice.”

The ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan QC announced in early March that he was investigating the war crimes with referrals from 39 member states. These referrals will enable the court to proceed with opening an official investigation into “alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide” committed in Ukraine.

“With an active investigation now underway, I repeat my calls to all those engaged in hostilities in Ukraine to adhere strictly to the applicable rules of international humanitarian law. No individual in the Ukraine situation has a license to commit crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” Mr Khan said.

Earlier this month, the International Court of Justice ordered Russia to cease its military operations in Ukraine immediately and ensure that any organisation or unit under its direction or support “take no steps” to further the conflict.

The order, made in the case “Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide”, has also called for both Russia and Ukraine to refrain from any action “which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve”.