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The war in Ukraine threatens to become a forgotten conflict

Investigations March 1, 2024

It’s March 2024 and the war in Ukraine threatens to become a forgotten conflict, the participants locked in an embrace like two exhausted boxers. The conflict in Gaza has captured much of Western attention, and Republicans in the US are refusing to extend vital US military aid to Kyiv. Tensions are clearly emerging among the Ukrainians, with the much-hoped summer offensive of 2023 delivering little, resulting in General Valerii Zaluzhnyi being replaced as head of the army by General Oleksandr Syrskyi. The war, broadened by Russia’s February 2022 invasion, has been simmering since 2014, and now threatens to become interminable, with neither side appearing capable of delivering a knockout blow.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s dreams of detaching itself from Moscow’s orbit and joining the West has seen positive developments, with both NATO and the EU signalling that they are willing to commence accession as soon as the war is ended. The EU accession process is a fiendishly difficult and complex procedure, with significant harmonisation of national laws with EU norms required prior to joining. That process will present enormous challenges to a country that has long struggled with post-communist corruption and graft.

Accession to NATO and the EU will be a long and arduous task for Ukraine, even allowing for victory over Russia, which is objectively questionable at this point, given the war fatigue that seems to be setting in throughout the West. In the meantime, however, Ukraine is presented with the grim task of investigating war crimes perpetrated in the invasion areas, coming to light in the wake of Russia’s withdrawal in northern and northeastern Ukraine, in the Sumy, Kherson and Kharkiv regions, and most notoriously in Bucha. However, war crimes in the region can be traced back to the upheaval of 2014, symbolised most vividly in international eyes in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, but which pockmarks the entire Donbas, and Crimea as well. Uncovering such atrocities, investigating them, and bringing the perpetrators to justice will be an extremely arduous task for Ukrainian authorities, and to that end the EU dispatched a non-executive Advisory Mission to Ukraine (EUAM) on the 1st of December 2014. The EUAM’s stated goal is to “achieve a civilian security sector that is efficient, accountable, and enjoys the trust of the public.” EUAM aims to implement its mandate through three lines of operation: providing strategic advice on civilian sector security reform, particularly to develop strategic documents and legislation; supporting the implementation of those reforms; and to coordinate and cooperate in the implementation of reform to ensure coherence of reform efforts between Ukraine and international advisors.

Recently appointed to head of International Crimes Prosecution Unit at the EUAM is Irishman, Galway native Aonghus Kelly. Since leaving University College Cork, Aonghus has had a fascinating career, which has taken him to New Zealand, to representing Iraqi war crime victims in the UK, to Bosnia, to Kosovo, to Cambodia, and finally to Ukraine. Initially taking a sabbatical from his role as executive director of Irish Rule of Law International (IRLI), in September 2022 Aonghus joined EUAM, and in January of 2024 he was appointed head of the International Crimes Prosecution Unit.

Aonghus is a passionate human rights lawyer, believing in the fundamental dignity of humankind, regardless of race, religion or creed. He has assisted in the investigation of war crimes in the Balkans, as well as defending accused before the “Khmer Rouge” court in Cambodia. Currently based in Kyiv, where air raid and missile alerts are daily occurrences, Aonghus’ role often takes him to war torn eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.

On the 21st and 22nd of March 2024, Aonghus has agreed to speak at our Regulatory Investigations Conference, where he will discuss his career, speak on the EUAM’s objectives and accomplishments to date, as well as many of the challenges experienced by the Ukrainian authorities in investigating the ghastly atrocities committed since 2014. Aonghus will give his own informed observations on the rule of law and the operation of civil society in Ukraine in relation to his work with EUAM.

Secure your place at this year’s online Regulatory Investigations Conference, where Aonghus Kelly and other accomplished speakers will talk about pressing issues facing regulators, and much more.

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