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Ukraine War Crimes Register: Guide for Volunteers




As already reported, The PALADINS are establishing a war crimes register for actions taking place in theatre that appear prima facie to show evidence of the commission of war crimes. The following is detailed guidance for volunteers in the war crimes reporting unit. To repeat, this voluntary work can be undertaken entirely remotely; all it requires is internet access. It can also be undertaken at whatever speed each individual volunteer wishes to proceed at. There is no minimum or maximum obligation.

Here is what you need to know, and what you need to do.

1. For an adequate summary of the project, and the relevant legal tests you should be applying, read The PALADINS Ukraine war crimes register article. Read it with care. It defines with concision the eleven categories of war crimes that The PALADINS are considering, and it sets out the people who can commit such crimes. Pure civilians cannot commit war crimes; but people with any military affiliation (such as membership of an informal militia) can do so. In particular, read Article 8 of the Rome Statute, linked to from The PALADINS webpage describing this project, and ensure you are familiar with the categories of war crime described therein.

2. Provide your WhatsApp number to +381 62 156 0838 and ask to be invited to the "Ukraine War Crimes" group. Once you have been accepted into that group, you have been admitted as a volunteer to The PALADINS Ukraine war crimes project.

3. The structure of the project is as follows. There will be a register of war crimes admitted to our database. That register will appear at www.the-paladins.com/post/ukraine-war-crimes-register-travelling-draft. That register sets out war crimes investigations that have been registered with us. It is important to make sure that each volunteer does not investigate the same allegations of war crimes as other volunteers; this would be wasteful and might potentially lead to inconsistent outcomes.

4. Therefore when a volunteer decides to open their own investigation, the first thing they do is to inspect the travelling draft register to ensure that their investigation has not already been opened by another volunteer. They must look at this page and go through the entries already there, to make sure that what they are proposing to investigate is not already in the list.

5. Once they have satisfied themselves that it is not, they must email thepaladins2021@gmail.com with an initial entry for the travelling register. Their entry, which may initially be relatively bare, will then be uploaded to the travelling register within 24 hours. The entry will then be assigned a case number, which will appear at the beginning of the entry in the travelling register. Each volunteer will also be given a personal identity number, so that the identity of the volunteer investigating each incident will be kept anonymous.

6. Volunteers may provide updated entries to the travelling register as their investigations progress.

7. Volunteers may initiate an investigation as a result of any of the following: (a) a report to paladinsukrainewarcrimes@gmail.com that is forwarded to the individual volunteer with a request to investigate (n.b. in all such cases the volunteer is asked, within 48 hours, to indicate by return email whether they accept the investigation or do not want to undertake that investigation); (b) they read a media report which shows a prima facie case of a war crime, in respect of which they decide to open an investigation themselves; or (c) the volunteer receives information from a third party or victim which appears to show a prima facie case of war crimes, and they decide to open an investigation.

8. In all cases the procedure is the same: registration of the opening of the investigation is made by sending an initial report appropriate to the war crimes travelling draft register to thepaladins2021@gmail.com, having checked the register already to ensure that nobody else has already initiated an investigation into that matter.

9. Where it appears to the registrar of the page that two war crimes investigations listed on the register relate to substantially the same events, then the registrar may merge the entries and decide which volunteer is to proceed.

10. The course of the investigation is very much up to the individual volunteer, using their legal skills to peruse secondary sources or interrogate primary sources that they may be able to find. Any lawful method of enquiry is appropriate. Volunteers should recall that their goal is not to serve as an international war crimes investigating prosecutor but rather to undertake an initial sifting exercise so that files can be transferred to war crimes prosecutors in different jurisdictions as may be appropriate.

11. The volunteer will need to write up a report or opinion document, prefererably of not more than two pages per case (although it is understood that some cases will be more complex and will merit longer reports), and email each such document to paladinsukrainewarcrimes@gmail.com with the email heading "CONCLUDED INVESTIGATION: Case No. XXXX; Investigator No. XXX" and with a PDF attachment being the report they have drafted. At the same time as sending such an email with the concluded report, they should send a final case update to the travelling draft webpage, by email to thepaladins2021@gmail.com, with a final conclusion ("insufficient evidence to proceed" / "further enquiries needed" / "reference to appopriate prosecuting authority").

12. Training will be provided for each volunteer upon the exact types of investigatory method that are appropriate or not.

13. Volunteers are expected to act with the utmost integrity. They are not to be treated as agents, officers, employees or similar of The PALADINS and they undertake all their work on this project in their own capacity. Volunteers should avoid defamation of any person. The PALADINS accept no liability in respect of wrongful actions undertaken by volunteers. The PALADINS reserve the right to dismiss a volunteer at any time. No volunteer may take money or other benefit in exchange for their work.