12 January 2024, 17:56

Women and the legal struggle for the victory of Ukraine

Iryna Mudra
Iryna Mudra Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine

War is a difficult test for society in many aspects. The issue of equal rights, and gender equality in particular, is among the most fragile — can it retain its significance in times of power and injustice? Fortunately, Ukrainians prove every day that even the brutal aggression of the enemy does not stop social changes.

Women play an increasingly important role in the country's economy and politics, in cultural life, in volunteering, and in the ranks of the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine. These processes also confirm our European choice and contribute to EU integration. But Ukraine not only integrates international norms, but also changes the rules of the game in international law.

Time to act

The role of women during the war does not decrease, on the contrary, it increases, and issues of gender equality are actualized in even quite conservative areas, such as military service. 23 years ago, the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 "Women, Peace, Security" was adopted, indicating the importance of the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution and peace-building, and aimed at promoting women's access to leadership positions in security and defense structures. This is one of the most important resolutions of the UN Security Council in the field of security policy.

The Ukrainian delegation participated in the development and adoption of this resolution when it was an elected member of the UN Security Council in 2000-2001. Our country remains committed to the ideas expressed in the document and supports all subsequent additional resolutions. Already after the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the National Action Plan for the implementation of this Resolution, developed and approved by the Cabinet, was updated so that the document really meets the challenges of today. Ukrainian women are important agents of change both during the war and after it - during the reconstruction period.

I personally understand very well that the challenges for women during wartime are considerable. When I faced the beginning of the war in Kyiv, I was forced to evacuate my children abroad in order to ensure their proper safety. But at the same time, I had to use my expertise to help the state. Therefore, when I was offered the position of Deputy Minister of Justice, I agreed. Not because of a career - I liked the banking sector, where I worked before - but because of the desire to be useful to my country. My driving force was the thirst for justice for all Ukrainians, because I didn't have the strength to look at people's suffering and I knew that I could help. And it is worth saying that during this time it was possible to achieve significant progress.

Legal struggle in Ukraine

My personal goal, fortunately, completely coincides with my work duties — to bring the aggressor country to justice for all crimes committed and to ensure compensation for damages to Ukrainians. Currently, my team is working in several key directions: bringing the Russian Federation to legal responsibility in international courts, searching for the assets of sanctioned persons, as well as Russia in general, and creating a legal mechanism that will allow the use of seized assets of the Russian Federation to compensate for losses to the population and businesses.

I would like to note separately that it is an honor for me to be among those responsible for the implementation of clause 7 of the Peace Formula of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi "Restoration of Justice". This item provides for ensuring effective investigation at the national level and achieving accountability for the crime of aggression, as well as strategic partnership with international justice mechanisms, promotion of bilateral and multilateral interstate partnership for the investigation and prosecution of international crimes, compensation and compensation for damage and losses caused to Ukraine and Ukrainians by Russian aggression If we talk about the search for assets, it is conducted both in Ukraine and abroad. We have a Task Force UA group that unites representatives of law enforcement agencies, ministries, and international experts. Together, we are looking for the assets of persons involved in the war and the crimes against Ukraine. Our task is to gather all the necessary evidence and transfer the assets as soon as possible to the income of the state and to compensate the victims of the armed conflict. Since the start of the full-scale invasion, our team has filed 38 forfeiture actions (32 of which have become final). That's what's empowering, because I feel like all these seized assets will help the people who have suffered because of the Russians, and also help our country defend itself.

The challenge: to change international law

At the international level, decisions take longer. However, we really managed to change what was considered impossible — to make world leaders question international law, question the effectiveness of its individual norms, and seek solutions. The fact is that the full launch of the International Compensation Mechanism requires the political will of the countries to confiscate the sovereign assets of the Russian Federation.

This has not been done before, but we are sure that such actions will allow us to preserve the principle of justice. And they start listening to us. An International Register of Damages has already been established in The Hague under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Its launch was supported by 43 countries of the world and the European Union. While this is not the finish line, the processes taking place are tectonic.

The progress of cases in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is also inspiring. Last year, our team at the Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ukraine against Russia regarding massive human rights violations. This is another way for us to achieve justice and get compensation for Ukraine. Unfortunately, the ECtHR regulation does not allow individual claimants to be compensated, but even in the "state against state" format, it helps us to protect the interests of all citizens and emphasize our right.

Equality and the future of Ukraine

Sometimes I stop and look at all this from the side. Then I am surprised by what I see, because even when I was studying at the university, it was impossible to imagine that Ukraine and Ukrainian women would change international law - a field that was considered unchanging and thoroughly male. But today we prove by our actions that everything is possible.

However, I do not believe that the dramatic jump in women's leadership was due to the war. Rather, these are the positive consequences of a long and persistent struggle, and the war only showed those who are ready to fight and defend the country, regardless of gender. And so I am sure that during war, when people have the opportunity to really show their best qualities, equality becomes even more important. More than 60,000 women are currently serving in various branches of our Defense and Security Forces. Thousands and millions more are volunteering, using their knowledge to help the country, whether they are here or abroad. And I believe that there will be even more active Ukrainian women.

Last year, at a critical moment for the country, I accepted the offer to work in the Ministry of Justice, although I could have stayed in the banking sector. Why did I do it? Because of the war. Because of Bucha, Irpin, Vorzel and the tragedies of all those women who were killed by the Russians. I thought about them, about how they could express themselves in this life that was taken away from them. And the feeling of this injustice makes me move towards victory. And there will be no victory without achieving fair punishment for criminals and payment of compensation to victims. Women know how to fight for their rights and know how important it is not to leave evil unpunished.


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