'Accountability and justice': Gathering digital evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

© Yasuyoshi Chiba, AFP

As the UN Human Rights Council meets to discuss expanding its investigation into war crimes committed in Ukraine, individuals and organisations are gathering their own digital evidence of human rights violations. Social media posts, satellite imagery and online videos are some of the images being used to create a digital archive of war crimes in real time.

At the opening of a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had led to “most massive violations of human rights” in the world today, including cases of sexual violence, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and violations of the rights of prisoners of war documented by the UN human rights office.

Ukraine itself estimates that more than 70,000 war crimes have been committed on its soil since the February 2022 invasion.

At the same time, there are almost unprecedented efforts being made to record and investigate evidence of such crimes – including in digital form.

Mnemonic, an NGO based in Berlin, has collected more than 3 million records of potential human rights violations and alleged war crimes in Ukraine since the Russian invasion.

But they are no magic bullet. One of the biggest challenges lies in preserving archived digital records for the long term, as this involves trying to predict technological advances that could affect accessing the records in the future.

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