Queen's Policy Engagement

The Role of Transitional Justice in Ukraine

International legal responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should look to the theory and practice of transitional justice in delivering holistic justice responses says Professor Louise Mallinder.

The Role of Transitional Justice in Ukraine

Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has triggered considerable international support for international prosecutions of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian figures responsible for aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The rapidity and ambition of these moves towards accountability is without precedent in previous conflicts.

The pressure for criminal accountability is understandable. It reaffirms international law and norms in the face of Russia’s apparent lawlessness. It feels like a moral response to the daily images of destroyed lives and cities that cover our television screens, newspapers and social media feeds. And supporting accountability demands provides other states with a means to signal their solidarity with Ukraine.

However, international legal responses, even if they are able to succeed in getting Russian leaders into custody, which seems unlikely at the present time, would not be sufficient to address the needs of victims and to promote reconciliation within Ukraine after the war’s end. Instead, this article argues that responses should look to the theory and practice of transitional justice in delivering holistic justice responses, including drawing on the considerable transitional justice work that has already been carried out in Ukraine in recent years.

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Article originally appeared on the website of the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast.


The featured image has been used courtesy of a Creative Commons license.  

Image credit: Marjan Blan, Unsplash.

Professor Louise Mallinder
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Professor Louise Mallinder is the Theme Lead for Legacy at the Mitchell Institute and Professor of Law at the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. Professor Mallinder's research interests relate to the fields of international human rights law, international criminal law, and law and politics in political transitions.

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