In international conflicts, calculating damage and establishing due process for reparations is extremely challenging. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the speed and severity of the attacks left many dead and injured, and millions displaced. But, in modern warfare, advances in technology and the capacity to share information quickly can shine a light on the damage caused and create international transparency. Now, in the most comprehensive initiative of its kind, victims in Ukraine will have a chance to have their voices heard and their lives rebuilt.
The Register of Damage for Ukraine, officially titled: Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation Against Ukraine, was established within the framework of the Council of Europe in response to a United Nations General Assembly resolution that recognises the need for an international reparations mechanism to help the victims of the invasion get compensation and a measure of justice.
The Register will be an official record held on a secure digital platform. It will be available to individuals, businesses, and state entities in Ukraine, who can report damage, loss, or injury that they have suffered during the conflict. The register will then form the basis for the future work of an international compensation mechanism that will examine these claims and award reparations to the victims.
An international effort to bring justice to millions
The team behind the Register of Damage is made up of both Ukrainian nationals and international experts. When it is fully up and running, it will have 45 staff members, with headquarters in The Hague, and ten people working ‘on the ground’ in the Register’s satellite office in Ukraine. The project team has vast experience in this complex area of law, but one of the biggest challenges has been the lack of international precedent for a register like this.
There are similarities with the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), which was set up after Iraq’s unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-1991, and the United Nations Register of Damage (UNRoD) which records damage in Palestinian territories, but what makes this Register truly unique is the number of expected claims, which is expected to be in the millions. This will also be the first time a damage register will be maintained via an exclusively digital platform.
The Hague’s reputation as the international city of peace and justice makes it the perfect home for the Register of Damage for Ukraine as it pursues accountability for the victims of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The Register stands side-by-side with other prominent international organisations such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and EUROJUST which are also based in The Hague, and have a remit to deliver justice to the victims of war. This helps to form a unique ecosystem with innovation and technology at its heart, where organisations can come together to explore new ways of working that foster international collaboration, and provide solutions fairly and swiftly to those that need them most.
Crucially for the victims of this ongoing conflict, the Register of Damage for Ukraine is already functioning. Its painstaking work to uncover the true cost of war is well underway, and it will start taking in claims for damage soon.