(Editor’s note: This article is part of Just Security’s Symposium, International Law in the Face of Russia’s Aggression in Ukraine: The View from Lviv.)

On April 2, 2024 – less than a year after its creation – the Register of Damages Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine (the Register) opened for submission for its first category of claims. This post explains how the Register works and what it does, within the larger context of international compensation mechanisms. By harnessing the tools of international law to collect, assess, and categorize claims of harm caused by the war, the Register is uniquely positioned to be an important part of the mechanism to ultimately provide remedies to those who suffered injuries and loss because of Russia’s violations of international law.

The Register’s Creation

The Register, seated in The Hague, is a new and innovative institution created to record claims of injuries, damage and loss caused by Russia’s aggression of Ukraine under a partial and enlarged agreement of the Council of Europe (CoE – see here for a timeline of its creation). The Statute of the Register provides that it 

“shall serve as a record, in documentary form, of evidence and claims information on damage, loss or injury caused, on or after 24 February 2022, in the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, extending to its territorial waters, to all natural and legal persons concerned, as well as the State of Ukraine, including its regional and local authorities, state-owned or controlled entities, by the Russian Federation’s internationally wrongful acts in or against Ukraine.” 

In accordance with its Statute, the functions of the Register are limited to receiving and processing information on claims, categorizing, classifying, and organizing such claims, and assessing and determining their eligibility for inclusion in the Register. In itself, the Register does not have an adjudicative function, nor does it determine responsibility or allocate payments or compensation. The Statute (at Art. 2.5) provides that the work of the Register is but the first component of a future compensation mechanism to be created separately, and which may include a claims commission and a compensation fund. 

The Register was created by Resolution CM/Res (2023)3 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) establishing the Enlarged Partial Agreement on the Register of Damage Caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine on May 12, 2023. In addition to 37 CoE members, the European Union, Canada, Japan and the United States are also members of the Register. As such, the Register acts within the institutional framework of the CoE, and has its own juridical personality under Dutch and Ukrainian law (Arts. 1 & 3 Statute). Participation in the Register is open to all CoE members and observer States and the EU, as well as other States that voted in favor of UN GA Res. A/RES/ES-11/5 and those so authorized by the Conference of Participants, taking into consideration the position of Ukraine.

Key Features and Operations to Date

An overview of key features of the Register and its operations to date, provided below, highlight its unique design and early successes in implementation:

The Conference of Participants: The Register is composed of three main bodies: the Conference of Participants (COP), the Board and the Executive Director, who heads the Secretariat. The COP is composed of one representative appointed by each participant. Associate members participate without a right to vote but acquire full rights when they make voluntary contributions of specified amounts. The COP has overall responsibility for the fulfillment of the mandate of the Register. It appoints the members of the Board, designates the Executive Director and approves the budget. It also approves the Register’s rules and regulations proposed by the Board. 

The COP has so far met four times: first, in June 2023 in Strasbourg to appoint its Chair (Ambassador Sandy Moss from the UK) and Vice-Chairs (Ambassador Tanja Gonggrijp of the Netherlands and Mr. Emil Rugger of Czechia) and designate the Executive Director (Markiyan Kliuchkovskyi of Ukraine). The COP’s second meeting discussed financial issues and approved the 2023 budget. It also agreed on the rules for the appointment of the members of the Board. The seven members of the Board were elected at its third meeting in November 2023. Finally, the COP met in The Hague in April to announce the opening of the claims’ submission process.

Board of the Register: The Board of the Register, elected by the COP, is composed of seven members, each nominated by COP members. Robert Spano, former President of the European Court of Human Rights from Iceland and now a partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, chairs the Board. I, Chiara Giorgetti (from Italy), Professor of International Law and an international arbitration expert, have the honor to be the Vice-Chair. The other members are Dr. Veijo Heiskanen (Finland) international arbitrator and former partner at Lalive, Ms. Aleksandra Mężykowsa (Poland) Associate Professor at Institute of Law Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Lucy Reed (USA) international arbitrator and former partner at Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Dr.  Norbert Wühler (Germany) who has served in several  international claims commissions. One spot on the Board was reserved for a Ukrainian nominee, and Yulia Kyrpa, executive partner at Aequo, was elected by the COP to that spot. Board members serve for three years and sit in their individual capacity. 

Under Art. 6 of the Statute, the Board has responsibility for the exercise of the function of the Register and proposes rules and regulations governing the Register’s work, in particular in regards to the determination of the categories of claims and the process for receiving, processing and recording them, as well the format of the claims form and the requirement for evidence for each category of claims. The rules and regulations are approved by the COP. The board also has ultimate authority to determine the eligibility of claims to be recorded, based on the recommendations of the Executive Director, and performs any other function not otherwise vested in other organs of the Register.

The Board has already met twice. During its inaugural meeting in December 2023 it elected its Chair and vice-Chair, adopted rules and procedures and discussed the categories of claims that will be eligible for submission to the Register, in accordance with its Statute and international law. It also stated its intention to address as a matter of urgency the collection and recording of claims from individuals who have been most effective by the war and claims related to Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

Executive Director: The Executive Director, Markiyan Kliuchkovskyi, was designated by the COP upon proposal of Ukraine. He has the day-to-day responsibility for overseeing and administrating the work of the Secretariat, and, together with the Secretariat, ensures substantive, technical, administrative and organization support for the work of COP. He is also responsible for forwarding claims to the Board for approval and recording them in the Register and for liaising with relevant national and international bodies on issues related to its work and the process of claims collection and evidence.

Eligible Claims: The Board adopted categories of claims eligible for recording at its second meeting of March 2024 and the Conference of the Participants approved the categories a few days later, on 26 March 2024. Categories include claims by natural persons (Category A), which include claims related to involuntary displacement, personal injuries, loss of property, income and livelihood and loss of access to public services. Claims by the State of Ukraine (Category B) and Claims by legal entities other than those included in B (Category C). Category B includes damage or destruction of property, loss of historic, cultural and religious heritage, damages to the environment and natural resources as well as humanitarian public expenditure and demining. Category C includes damage or destruction of property, loss of historical, cultural, and religious heritage, business and other economic losses and humanitarian expenditures. 

Categories of Claims may be subject to change and/or clarification, in accordance with the Register’s Statute and Claims Rules. Specific rules for submission of specific categories of claims and the related evidentiary requirements are to be approved by the Board separately.  

Claims Rules: The Board has also approved Rules Governing the Submission, Processing and Recording of Claims (Claims Rules) which specify how claims can be submitted and by whom, as well as the technical submission requirements, eligibility requirements and the process for review and processing by the secretariat and consideration and recording by the Board.

Opening the Register for Claims

On a momentous occasion, at the fourth meeting of the COP on 2 April 2024, the submission of claims in the first category – damages or destruction of residential immovable property – was opened. The Board chose this category because of its immense impact on people’s lives and because substantial evidence was readily available. The Register will then continue to periodically launch other submission of claims from individuals who have been most affected by the war and for damages to critical infrastructure of Ukraine.

IMAGE: In an aerial view, residential districts in the flooded area of the city on June 8, 2023 in Kherson, Ukraine. As a result of blowing up (Ukraine authorities has accused Russia in that), about 80 settlements, including Kherson, are threatened with flooding. Authorities and volunteers began evacuating the population from dangerous areas. (Photo by Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)