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Documenting Russian war crimes in Ukraine: OpenArchive partners with Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

OpenArchive’s team is supporting human rights defenders in Ukraine to preserve evidence of Russian war crimes and other human rights atrocities.

OpenArchive is partnering with the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) to support and enhance their impressive archival work. KHPG documents, preserves, and uses evidentiary media to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes and bring justice to the Ukrainian people.

This partnership bolsters KHPG’s work by supporting a decentralized archivist community of journalists, historians, lawyers, and other on-the-ground eyewitnesses to facilitate trainings on best practices for archiving and digital security in active war zones.

“Collaborating with KHPG to protect and preserve their crucial evidence is one of the most important and rewarding projects I’ve had the good fortune to work on,” said OpenArchive Founder & Executive Director Natalie Cadranel. “Their indestructible spirit, technological capabilities, and brilliant, dedicated team have shown incredible fortitude under extreme duress. Their commitment to exposing injustice and protecting human rights is truly inspirational.”

Ukrainian authorities and international human rights groups are already investigating thousands of alleged war crimes since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. These crimes include sexual violence, summary execution, looting, forced displacement, and countless other cases of abuse. Preserving evidence of these atrocities can aid in advancing the prosecution of these crimes and bringing closure to grieving families.

“We must bring justice to the Ukrainian victims of Russian atrocities,” said KHPG Director Yevgeniy Zakharov. “It is crucial to document these horrific war crimes and ensure we preserve and verify this evidence effectively and securely. OpenArchive is playing a critical role to help us bolster this process. With their help, we are able to implement more streamlined ways to document war crimes with new technologies and create a more robust and secure archive. Our partnership is invaluable.”

KHPG is one of the oldest and most active non-governmental human rights organizations in Ukraine. The group documents human/civil rights abuses in Ukraine by recording interviews with victims and eyewitnesses of Russian war crimes and collecting evidence from open sources. KHPG also offers legal assistance to victims of the atrocities, bringing cases to the International Criminal Court and other international institutions.

In March 2022, KHPG joined the Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative alongside other human rights organizations to help collect open-source intelligence of Russian war crimes. 24 participating organizations specializing in specific regions verify and authenticate details from open sources while also gathering testimony from witnesses and victims. One of the members of the initiative, the Center for Civil Liberties, recently received the Nobel Peace prize 2022.

“Behind each documented war crime, there is someone’s life that Russia ruined, traumatized, or claimed forever. Russia needs to be held accountable… We must help Ukrainians document Russia’s war crimes so that they will not repeat anywhere in the world,” said Viktoriia Savchuk, OpenArchive’s community manager for Ukraine.

OpenArchive uses a human rights centered co-research and design approach to work with communities worldwide to develop safer and usable mobile archiving tools and workflows.

Beyond Ukraine, OpenArchive is partnering with Decentralized Archivist Communities (DACs) worldwide to preserve evidence of war crimes, injustice, police brutality, and violence from far-right extremists. OpenArchive supports its DACs with funding, ethnographic research to learn about their needs and pain points, by sharing technical expertise about best practices for creating and maintaining a secure archive, and training them on how to use Save to protect and simplify their archival workflows.

OpenArchive developed its Save (Share, Archive, Verify, Encrypt) app in 2015 to circumvent these obstacles. Save helps eyewitnesses preserve, protect, authenticate, and amplify crucial records of human rights abuses by routing their media to secure servers and public digital collections like the Internet Archive.

Photo by: Алесь Усцінаў / Pexels