[Launch]First of its kind basic investigative standards for documenting international crimes in Ukraine

Published 23 May 2023

The BIS Manual is a toolkit for documenting international crimes in Ukraine. 

On the EU Day against Impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Global Rights Compliance launches the ‘Basic Investigative Standards for Documenting International Crimes in Ukraine’ (BIS-Ukraine) - a unique toolkit aimed at supporting the work of civil society organisations, human rights defenders and other practitioners documenting international crimes in Ukraine.

The Basic Investigative Standards Manual was developed in the MATRA-Ukraine project, “Strengthening Ukraine’s Capacity to Investigate and Prosecute International Crimes”, which is led by Global Rights Compliance (‘GRC’) and the Asser Institute, and funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The BIS-Ukraine includes:

  • The BIS-Ukraine manual, which draws on standards set out in the Ukrainian Criminal Code (‘CCU’) and Criminal Procedure Code; international human rights, humanitarian, and criminal law; and established international best practices related to the documentation of international crimes. It aims to ensure information and evidence is effectively collected, preserved and available for accountability processes.
  • The BIS-Ukraine guides, which contain short, easily accessible handouts on the essential investigative rules, preparing for documentation, handling various types of evidence (physical, documentary, digital, audio-visual and OSINT/SOCINT), conflict-related sexual violence and survivor-centred principles for dealing with victims and witnesses. It serves as a quick refresher of the key standards contained in the BIS-Ukraine Manual.
  • The forthcoming BIS-KIT mobile app, a mobile companion for practitioners in Ukraine, containing practical investigative procedures and tips for identifying international crimes.

The BIS-Ukraine manual and BIS-Ukraine guides are designed as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all documentation queries, including:

  • How to investigate the contextual elements of international crimes?
  • What elements are required to prove international crimes, such as the crime of aggression, torture, enforced disappearance, sexual violence, attacks against civilians/civilian objects, etc?
  • How to link perpetrators to international crimes using modes of liability recognised under the CCU and international law?
  • How to collect evidence admissible for court?
  • How to interview a witness and avoid retraumatisation?
  • How to document a crime scene?
  • How to recognise and investigate conflict-related sexual violence (‘CRSV’)?

What you can find in the BIS-Ukraine manual: 

  • GRC’s six essential rules which should be at the forefront of all efforts to document international crimes.
  • An introduction to international human rights, humanitarian and criminal law.
  • The critical elements required to build international crimes cases, including the contextual elements; the elements of crimes relevant to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; and the applicable modes of liability. Each section contains practical cues for practitioners and examples of evidence relevant to the Ukrainian context.
  • Practical steps necessary to prepare for the documentation of international crimes, including risk assessments.
  • Guidance on collecting and preserving information, including an overview of admissibility of evidence and practical steps to collect, store and handle physical (including crime scene analysis), documentary, digital (including taking videos and photographs) and OSINT information.
  • Survivor-centred principles for interacting with victims and witnesses, including principles relating to taking witness statements and interviews.
  • Advice on documenting conflict-related sexual violence (‘CRSV’) crimes, including identifying and classifying CRSV, understanding consent and coercion, linking perpetrators to acts of CRSV, and avoiding myths surrounding CRSV.

Download the BIS-Ukraine manual in English and Ukrainian.

Download the BIS-Ukraine guides in English and Ukrainian.

Strenghtening Ukraine's capacity to investigate and prosecute international crimes
The MATRA project ''Strengthening Ukraine’s capacity to investigate and prosecute international crimes" is a joint initiative of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and Global Rights Compliance. The project is designed to assist the War Crimes Unit in Ukraine to investigate, prosecute and seek remedies for international crimes. Alongside supporting the office of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, it will deliver vital technical and strategic expertise to other criminal justice entities, such as judges and lawyers, civil society organisations and journalists. The project is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the MATRA (MAatschappelijke TRAnsformatie: social transformation) Programme and supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Justice and Security.