Norwegian Committee documents Russian war crimes


Eastern Europe


Residents help police officials, forensic experts, and war crime prosecutors to exhume the bodies of six civilians from a mass grave at a yard in the village of Pravdyne, outside Kherson. Photo EPA, Roman Pilipey

A committee in Norway has been able to document Russian war crimes in Ukraine since the start of the invasion. They also receive Norwegian state support.

"The war in Ukraine will probably be the most documented war in history", says Berit Lindeman to the Norwegian Christian daily Vårt Land. Lindeman is the secretary general of the Helsinki Committee, a Norwegian organisation that has a key role in archiving and systematizing evidence from the ground in Ukraine - with direct financial support from the Norwegian government.

The Helsinki Committee, named after the Helsinki Accords, actively monitors and reports human rights violations and democracy support. At the moment, it is mostly working in Ukraine. Recently, it called upon the Norwegian government to support a tribunal against Russian war criminals. The Committee was able to hit the ground running since they were already documenting other Russian war crimes from Chechnya.


The Helsinki Committee could thus fairly easily start monitoring the war in Ukraine right from the first days of the war. However, where people were working on the ground at first in Chechnya, they now mostly work from safe Norway. There is a tragic reason for that.

In 2009, human rights activist and board member of Memorial, an organisation that has a close relationship with the Helsinki Committee, was killed in Chechnya. "We immediately realised that neither investigators nor material was safe in Russia", says Aage Storm Borchgrevink of the Helsinki Committee. Therefore, all archives were transferred from the Northern Caucasus to the centre in Norway.

Twelve years later, up to one million sources - testimonies, photos and video clips - from Chechnya have been stored and systematised in the cloud database.

Since Putin invaded Crimea in 2014, the Helsinki Committee has made their computer system and knowledge available in Ukraine. Therefore, it was able to get to work fast. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted nearly 1.2 million euros for the next two years to support the organisation's work.



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