12:01 16.04.2024

Torture in Occupied Ukraine:  The Reckoning Project files a criminal complaint in Republic of Argentina

5 min read

On April 15th,  an initiative of Ukrainian and international journalists and lawyers “The Reckoning Project” to document war crimes, together with the victim present in Buenos Aires, submitted a criminal complaint to the Argentine Federal Judiciary.

The complaint makes a request to the Federal Court to investigate torture inflicted against Mr M (anonymized for security reasons) by identified and unidentified Russian officials and affiliated individuals, for committing and otherwise facilitating torture. This is the first-ever Ukrainian torture complaint filed in Argentina.  

The evidence provided by Mr M in the complaint demonstrates practices of torture by electrocution in detention at the hands of Russian individuals in a town that is occupied by Russian forces. His evidence was corroborated by findings of international organizations, including the United Nations, that documented similar instances of torture upon other individuals in the same facility. Mr M’s torture was materially assisted by the presence and operation of Russian-linked entities and those in charge therein. 

Mr M, recalling those detained with him stated:

"I am one of many. So many other people I know were subjected to even worse treatment. I want to tell the world about our pain. These practices continue to happen in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.”

Accompanying Mr M from Ukraine is Nataliya Gumenyuk, a Ukrainian journalist, co-founder of The Reckoning Project, and CEO of the Public Interest Journalism Lab. She stresses that the overwhelming evidence of torture against civilians in Ukraine requires the international community to support justice:

“Within the last two years just our team, which is relatively small, recorded over a hundred testimonies of people who were subjected to torture, a few dozen of them electrocuted in a very similar way. Given that even the United Nations noted that Ukraine faces an enormous caseload and limited resources, we cannot expect one judicial system to be able to deal with that amount of crimes. For us Ukrainians the Argentinian experience of trials is both a call for international support in upholding the rule of law and a hope that justice is possible.”

The Constitution of Argentina allows its courts, on the basis of universal jurisdiction, to try international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, irrespective of where they took place. Over the years, Argentina has taken a leading role in the fight against impunity both domestically and internationally, including by opening investigations under the principle of universal jurisdiction arising from different country contexts. Its judiciary has delivered landmark cases on the crime of torture.


Prior to filing the complaint in February and March 2024, Nataliya Gumenyuk and Tsvetelina van Benthem, a University of Oxford legal scholar and Senior Legal Advisor at The Reckoning Project, traveled to Argentina to meet government officials, representatives of human rights and criminal justice organizations, and to learn from their experience in the pursuit of accountability for international crimes committed during the civic-military dictatorship. Tsvetelina notes that:

“Argentina has created the conditions, in policy and law, for borderless justice. Torture is torture, wherever committed.”

The Reckoning Project Senior Legal Advisor and British barrister Jack Sproson, who reviewed and analyzed hundreds of witness, victim, and survivor testimonies collected by the project,  stated that:

“Reading evidence of torture on paper is one thing, but meeting and listening to Mr M leaves a person with horror. Seeing Mr M’s drive for justice, however, gives one hope and inspiration.”

British-Syrian barrister, Ibrahim Olabi, who led the legal team at The Reckoning Project on this submission stated that:

“International crimes might occur in one State, but through international treaties, the international community made it clear that they should be a concern for all States. Today, we call upon the respected Argentine judiciary, who understand these allegations like no other, to thoroughly investigate this grave breach.”

Janine di Giovanni, CEO of TRP NGO, driven by what she has seen covering dozens of conflicts as a war correspondent and human rights monitor noted that:

“For those who were subjected to horrific acts, such as Mr M, there is often a lingering sense of isolation, that their stories will never be heard, neither in the court of law, nor in the court of public opinion. Today, thousands of miles away from Ukraine, we are saying that should never be the case.”

During his visit to Buenos Aires Mr M met Argentinian survivors.  Today, outside the Federal Court, Mr M concluded that:

“In Argentina, I understood that justice is a long path, and it is possible when people unite. I met people who went through the horrors of torture, but who never gave up. Because people here understood my pain, I hope the chance for accountability exists.”

Photos and video by Anna Tshyhyma

The story was uncovered today by Reuters. The documentary about the initiative is being produced by The Reckoning Project in cooperation with award-winning Polish director Maciek Hamela.  

For media inquiries, please contact Iryna Yehiazarova, PIJL project coordinator  [email protected], +44 7392 852753, +380 99 192 1353