Council of Europe summit announces creation of Ukraine damage register as first step towards international compensation.

Council of Europe summit announces creation of Ukraine damage register as first step towards international compensation.
/ bne IntelliNews
By Dominic Culverwell in London May 18, 2023

During the second day of the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, prominent leaders announced the creation of a register of damage for Ukraine as the first step towards an international compensation mechanism for victims, the European Council wrote in a press release on May 17.

Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and President of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, and Denis Malyuska, Minister of Justice of Ukraine, jointly declared the creation of the Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation Against Ukraine under an enlarged partial agreement.

“Support and solidarity with Ukraine is one of the main priorities of the Icelandic Presidency and we have worked hard to ensure that the outcome of the Reykjavik Summit addresses the need for comprehensive accountability for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” said Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

The Register, established by participants at the Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe in Reykjavik on 16-17 May 2023, has garnered the participation or expressed intention to join from 43 countries and the European Union.

Jakobsdóttir asserted that the Council of Europe has a pivotal role to play in ensuring accountability and viewed the Register as a crucial step in holding Russia accountable for its brutal war and conveying strong support to Ukraine.

Describing the decision to establish the Register of Damage under the Council of Europe as historic, Marija Pejčinović Burić emphasised its importance in aiding victims to document their losses and serving as a vital component of any compensation mechanism. Burić noted the broad support from member and non-member states, as well as the EU, making it one of the first legally binding decisions to hold Russia accountable for its actions.

The EU, represented by Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, has made a significant financial contribution toward the startup costs. The Register will have its main office in The Hague (the Netherlands) and a satellite office in Ukraine. Mark Rutte underlined the importance of holding Russia accountable, particularly for the damages suffered by Ukraine and its people.

The initial duration of the Register is set for three years, during which it will function as a repository of evidence and claims information regarding damage, loss, or injury caused by Russian aggression against Ukraine. The establishment of the Register paves the way for a future comprehensive international compensation mechanism for victims of Russian aggression.

Denys Shmyhal, representing Ukraine, welcomed the creation of the Register of Damage and expressed gratitude to the Council of Europe and participating states for their unwavering support. Shmyhal invited nations from all around the globe to join the Register as a testament to their support for holding Russia accountable for its war against Ukraine.

Shmyhal stressed the need to swiftly operationalise the Register so that victims of Russian aggression can submit their claims. He further emphasised that the Register's establishment is just the first step toward a comprehensive compensation mechanism that ensures Russia fulfils its obligations under international law, including by utilising its assets located abroad. 

The EU is co-operating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to collect evidence of Russian war crimes. Following her visit to Kyiv on May 9, von der Leyen announced the creation of the “International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine'', within the Joint Investigation Team on Ukraine.

“I will support the creation of a dedicated tribunal for the crime of aggression (...) As a first step, we must collect, store and analyse all evidence related to the crime of aggression, for any future trials,” she said.