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ECHR orders Russia to stop attacking civilians, schools, and hospitals in Ukraine

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France. Photo: ECHR
ECHR orders Russia to stop attacking civilians, schools, and hospitals in Ukraine
Edited by: Christine Chraibi

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has reiterated its unprecedented interim measures on ‘Ukraine v. Russia’, which will enable faster processing of Ukraine’s complaints against Russia: it has ordered it to stop military attacks against civilians and civilian objects such as schools and hospitals.

This decision will remain in force for all future applications against Russia, says Anna Yudkivska, member of the Board at the European Society of International Law, Judge at the European Court of Human Rights.

Ukraine at the ECHR

On 24 February 2022, the Court decided to “suspend the examination of all applications against Ukraine until further notice”. Furthermore, it decided to approve several measures, which will be applied in all cases concerning Ukraine until further notice.

On 28 February 2022, the European Court of Human Rights received a request from the Ukrainian Government to apply urgent interim measures to the Government of the Russian Federation, under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court2, in relation to complaints regarding “massive human rights violations being committed by the Russian troops in the course of the military aggression against the sovereign territory of Ukraine”.

On 1 March 2022, the European Court of Human Rights issued an interim measure to indicate to the Government of Russia to refrain from military attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including residential premises, emergency vehicles and other specially protected civilian objects such as schools and hospitals, and to ensure immediately the safety of the medical establishments, personnel and emergency vehicles within the territory under attack or siege by Russian troops.

Under Law 39 of the Rules of the Court, the Court can issue interim (temporary) measures to any State concerned. Interim measures are urgent measures which, in accordance with Court practice, apply only where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm. Interim measures are only applied in exceptional cases.

Yudkivska added that these interim measures will be used to process applications from private/public entities affected by the Russian invasion, namely “those taking refuge in shelters, houses and other buildings, fearing for their lives due to ongoing shelling and shooting, without or with limited access to food, healthcare, water, sanitation, electricity and other interconnected services essential for survival, in need of humanitarian assistance and safe evacuation.

Finally, the Court ordered the Russian Federation, in accordance with their engagements under the Convention,  to enable “unimpeded access of the civilian population to safe evacuation routes, healthcare, food and other essential supplies, rapid and unconstrained passage of humanitarian aid and movement of humanitarian workers.”

Such interim measures will be automatically applied to all applications addressed to the ECHR under Law 39.

Ukraine’s quest for justice

Many people have questioned the objectives pursued by Ukraine’s complaints against Russia at the ECHR. It is true that Russia largely ignores international decisions. Furthermore, in 2020, Putin proposed an amendment, whereby international treaties and international law should not be valid in the Russian Federation, if they contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Since 2014, Ukraine has submitted numerous applications to the ECHR concerning human rights violations in occupied Crimes, the occupied territories of the Donbas, and elsewhere, and has been relentlessly pursuing its quest for international justice.

European Court of Human Rights hints Russia responsible for Donbas damages

Today, Ukraine is again fighting Russia in several fields, including diplomatic efforts and military resistance. Ukraine’s pursuit of justice in the judicial field is an important piece of this strategy. The approval of these interim measures simplifies the procedures for instigating further legal and financial penalties against Russia in the foreseeable future.

The fact that Ukraine’s complaints over Russian human rights violations are accepted in the ECHR legitimizes the country’s long struggle against Russian aggression.

Edited by: Christine Chraibi
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