STATEMENT of the World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers on the blowing up of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam

June 8, 2023, Kyiv

The World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers confirms with a heavy heart that Russian occupation forces, which captured the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) in the first days of the full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine, committed a terrorist attack in the morning of June 6, 2023, having blown up the HPP dam. This led to a man-made catastrophe and an environmental emergency situation with profound and irreversible consequences such as changes in the nature, loss of natural resources and a dramatic deterioration of the living conditions of the population, particularly the destruction of houses and households, the ruining of bridge constructions, and the erosion of railways and roads. According to preliminary information, about 80 settlements and tens of thousands of their inhabitants turned out to be in the zone of potential flooding.

And although it is still difficult to precisely estimate the consequences of the HPP destruction as well as the losses it caused, the World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers urgently calls for trialing the agonizing Putin’s regime for this another crime exclusively in the legal plane.

The World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers emphasizes that blowing up the Kakhovka HPP is an international crime and a crime against humanity. Indeed, it was clear that a deliberate attack against such a specific critical infrastructure object being obviously a high-risk facility, would certainly do harm to the civilian population – it would lead to the tragic deaths of civilians and the destruction of their property – and this attack constitutes a violation of article 56 of the Additional Protocol I (relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts) to the Geneva Conventions. In addition, a huge number of people in the south of Ukraine, including in the Crimea, were left without electricity, heat, and most importantly, drinking water. The deliberate nature of the catastrophe on the Kakhovka Dam gives reason to talk about the commission of a crime against humanity under the provisions of Article 7 (k) of the Rome Statute “Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health”.

In addition, the World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers believes that the blowing up of the Kakhovka HPP will have devastating consequences not only for the ecosystem of Ukraine, but also for the entire Black Sea region. Moreover, this crime potentially threatens a nuclear catastrophe due to the interruptions in the cooling system at Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest in Europe, as the IAEA quite rightly warns. Under such conditions, the goals of human civilization regarding sustainable development become ephemeral when emissions increase as a result of the criminal actions of the aggressor.

The World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers emphasizes that the events around energy facilities, in particular in Kakhovka, testify to the conscious policy of the Russian authorities, which has signs of ecocide, that is, deliberate actions that can lead to an environmental catastrophe of a planetary scale. This should be the impetus for environmental crimes or ecocide to eventually receive a proper legal assessment and be included in the Rome Statute as one of the international crimes.

We emphasize that, in accordance with the requirements of international law, the occupational Moscow authorities are fully responsible for the events that take place in the occupied territory of Ukraine. The Kakhovka HPP has been under the control of the occupational authorities since the first days of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and from that moment on, it is the Russian Federation that has positive obligations to prevent threats at critical infrastructure facilities that potentially contain dangerous forces, which could potentially cause heavy losses among the civilian population.

The World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers is confident that, together with the international community, we will bring to justice the perpetrators of this and other international crimes. In this context, we support the efforts of the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies aimed at fully and comprehensively clarifying the circumstances of the above terrorist attack and informing the relevant international structures. We are talking about the initiation of an investigation and the opening of criminal proceedings by the Security Service of Ukraine under Article 438 (violation of the laws and customs of war) and Article 441 (ecocide) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine in connection with the blowing up of the Kakhovka HPP dam, as well as the provision by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan all the necessary information in this regard.

The World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers considers it necessary to appeal to the UN Secretary General regarding the violation of Article 2 of the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD), which is currently valid for 58 states of the world, including Ukraine and the Russian Federation. This appeal should contain a demand for the creation of an advisory council and the UN International Tribunal in order to compensate for damage caused by Russia.

The World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers calls on all lawyers of Ukrainian origin, all governments, parliaments and environmental organizations of the world to immediately respond to these criminal actions of the aggressor state. We demand the application of inescapable responsibility for the top leadership of the Russian Federation in international courts, the identification and punishment of all those involved in this crime!

The World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers once again draws the attention of the world community to the need for comprehensive support for Ukraine in its struggle for independence and stopping the barbaric Russian aggression, in particular through the subsequent strengthening of the sanctions regime, providing our country with modern weapons and means of protection.

Glory to Ukraine!

Governing Council of the World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers