President of Ukraine

Olena Zelenska: Immediate reparations to victims of sexual violence by the occupiers is a step towards restoring justice

4 March 2024 - 15:12

Olena Zelenska: Immediate reparations to victims of sexual violence by the occupiers is a step towards restoring justice

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska took part in the international conference "Restoring the Rights of Victims of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: An Element of Peace and Global Security" held in Kyiv. The event was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna, other representatives of the government, parliament, NGOs and a wide range of international partners.

The conference was attended by representatives of such countries as the United Kingdom, Japan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luxembourg, Norway, Colombia, Switzerland, Moldova, Sweden, Finland, and others.

The event united the international community to enhance effective assistance to all those who suffered from sexual violence during Russia's war against Ukraine, as well as to find ways to achieve real justice. The conference emphasized that reparations should be one of the key elements for restoring the rights of victims of conflict-related sexual violence.

The First Lady noted that victims of sexual violence during the war cannot wait for "classic" reparations when the war ends or when Russia agrees to pay compensation. Immediate action is needed.

"Reparations to victims of gross human rights violations, including victims of conflict-related sexual violence, are not just about economic support. It is an important step towards restoring justice. And this justice is needed not only in Ukraine. Justice for Ukrainian victims of violence is now a mirror for the world itself," Olena Zelenska said.

As part of the event, Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna presented Ukraine's first project on urgent interim reparations for victims of wartime sexual violence.

The initiative is a unique case in the history of reparations measures, when the state, together with civil society and non-governmental organizations, develops steps for the payment of urgent interim reparations during the war.

The project envisages the identification of victims of sexual violence, determination of whether each case meets the criteria of sexual violence, and direct payment of interim compensation to identified victims.

It will primarily take into account the personal approach to each victim, as well as their suggestions. Thus, victims are already involved in all processes within the project. The initiative envisages the provision of one-time interim compensation to all identified victims by the end of October 2024. As part of the pilot project, 500 people will be able to receive one-time interim compensation.

The project was initiated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine in cooperation with the Government Commissioner for Gender Policy and the Global Survivors Fund. The project is being implemented in cooperation with the Prosecutor General's Office, the International Register of Damage and the Ministry of Justice.

"Until an international compensation mechanism is established and Russia's confiscated assets are used to support Ukraine, it is very important for us to receive appropriate assistance from our partner countries. We cannot undo the pain that the aggressor has already caused. But we can be an anesthetic for this pain. We can show that not everyone in the world is a murderer and a rapist. That there is help and support. There is justice. There is something to live for," the President's wife emphasized.

The event was organized by the Government of Ukraine with the support of the UK Government in partnership with the Ukrainian Women Lawyers Association "JurFem" and the Ukrainian Women's Fund.

Reference. To date, prosecutors have recorded 274 cases of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). It is difficult to estimate the true scale of these crimes given the ongoing hostilities, Russia's temporary occupation of parts of Ukrainian territory, limited access to assistance, and stigma that discourages victims from reporting crimes. The experience of other countries shows that victims can report CRSV many years later.

Immediate interim reparations are a form of compensation for victims that does not require waiting for the aggressor country to compensate for the damages to the people and the country it has attacked.