This is Exactly What We Need – Training on Documentation as a Tool to Restore Peace and Justice

Chernihiv, 10-14 November 2016 – Participants from over twenty organizations and initiatives on the protection of human rights raised their awareness on how important it is to document human rights violations associated with the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

content img 5304During the first training day, the focus was made on the alleged international crimes committed during the conflict in Donbas and on the liability for such crimes. Anton Korynevych, an associate professor at the International Law Department of the Institute of International Relations of Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University, delivered a lecture on this topic.

"Information on the international crimes was substantive, understandable, lively and interesting. I consider the provided information to be useful. So far, I can't say how I would apply the gained knowledge. I guess that this just helps to get better understanding of crimes and on which of them we should focus more. I enjoyed the first day of the training a lot," Hanna Karasiuk, representative of the NGO "Displaced persons of Crimea and Donbas," shared her impression.

During the second day, participants focused on the best practices of documenting war crimes and gross violations of human rights using the example of former Yugoslavia. Militsa Kostich, Head of the Center on Humanitarian Law in Belgrade, Serbia, stressed in her speech that documentation of violations was vitally important for the conflict settlement. In particular, the human rights defender told about the Kosovo Memory Book which keep records of the thousands of murders, kidnappings and disappearances. As time passed the information gathered there became a ground for the government to develop and implement the respective social programmes.

1999 b"During today's session we got aware on how the documentation goes in different countries of the world (Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia, South Sudan). We have discussed the reasons for the need to document gross human rights violations and how we make use of the information we have received. I consider the gained knowledge to be useful to improve the performance of human rights defenders who document violations in Ukraine," Hanna Yanova, an analyst at Eastern Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives, underlined.

The participants of the training discussed information in order to maintain and fill in MEMEX human rights violations database. This database is being administered by the Coalition with the support from UNDP and other donors.

During the training, the human rights defenders also benefited from the hands-on recommendations on mental healthcare. Lectures on strategies and tactics of effective communications were delivered. In particular, Maryna Hovorukhina, Head of the PR department of Human Rights Information Centre, helped the participants to learn about the successful communications tools for the human rights defenders. As a result, representatives of NGOs and civic initiatives learned how to create their own ideas and key messages to communicate their activity within the society.

"I have been thinking for long on how to effectively get across the information about our organization's activity to the core audience. And whether we have to do it as soon as our actions speak louder than words. The session on PR helped me to understand that we need to reach out to the recipients of our services as we pursue our goal. I am confident that the huge information value of the training would result in successful practical application of the new knowledge," Ruslan Bereteli, a legal counsel of the charity organization "Right to Protection," claimed.

undp-rbec-crisis-ukraineEleanor Farrow, a Project Coordinator at the International Association of Legal Counsels EyeWitness to Atrocities (London), told about new ways to document photo/video/audio materials through the smartphone app EyeWitness. This app helps documentation professionals to get sufficient amount of information while creating media materials to prove their credibility in courts.

"Verification of photo and video evidence is an essential part of war crimes documentation. EyeWitness app is a unique product with an efficient and comfortable structure. Some of the approaches and decisions have surprised me in a good way. I believe these approaches may be effective," Taras Miroshnichenko, a documentation specialist at the International Partnership on Human Rights (IPHR), summarized the session.

At the closing session, the participants explored avenues of cooperation with the Justice for Peace in Donbas Coalition on documenting human rights violations committed during the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

The training was carried out by the Eastern Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives within the framework of the Justice for Peace in Donbas Coalition activity with the support of UNDP and other donors.