UN-appointed human rights investigators have confirmed that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry into Ukraine was established in March 2022 to enable UN human rights investigators to report on war crimes in the region.
Eric Moss, chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into Ukraine, said in a UN article that “investigators visited 27 cities and towns and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.” Moss also noted that “searches were carried out at the sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture, and the remains of weapons.”
While the commission’s report allowed UN investigators to document war crimes in Ukraine, tools and protocols are still needed to enable people to accurately and reliably report such activities. In addition, the need to preserve evidence of war crimes has become paramount as the war in Ukraine enters its seventh month.
Given these issues, industry experts believe that blockchain technology can solve many of the problems faced by individuals and organizations documenting war crimes. For example, Jaya Clara Brekke, head of strategy at Nym — a Cosmos blockchain-backed platform that protects the privacy of various applications — told Cointelegraph that Nym is developing a tool known as AnonDrop that will allow users to securely and anonymously upload data. She said:
“The goal of AnonDrop is to be a democratizing evidence-gathering tool that can be used to address human rights issues. Under the current conditions in Ukraine, this will be especially important to ensure the security of documentation and the anonymous exchange of evidence of war crimes. .”
“Nym’s core technology is a patchwork quilt that takes data from regular users and mixes it together with encryption to make it all look the same. It protects against people browsing the web, along with metadata monitoring and IP tracking. Whereas Nym provides a layer of anonymity that allows users to transfer data,” she explained. Information is stored anonymously in the Filecoin decentralized storage network.
Will Scott, software engineer at Protocol Labs, a company that is working with Filecoin on a decentralized storage solution, told Cointelegraph that some of the information most important to humanity is stored in Filecoin to ensure data remains public.
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The blockchain network, together with decentralized storage, could be an important tool for documenting war crimes as it allows people in regions like Ukraine to report, share and store data anonymously. A Wall Street Journal article published in May 2022 stated that “Prosecutors say that with Russian troops occupying much of the country, it is impossible to consider all evidence of any possible war crime.” In addition, Ahmed Gabbur, Nima’s attorney general and assistant professor of law at Boston University, told Cointelegraph that it has become important for witnesses of human rights violations to speak out without fear of reprisals. He said:
“In Ukraine, where witnesses to war crimes face a technically sophisticated adversary, network-level anonymization is the only way to provide the security needed to obtain evidence to prosecute those responsible.”
While the potential of AnonDrop is clear, Clara Brikki notes that the solution is still in its early stages of development. “This year we participated in the Kyiv Tech Summit Hackathon in the hope of finding people who will help us expand the functionality of AnonDrop. For example, the AnonDrop UI is not yet complete, and we still need to find a way to check the images uploaded to the network,” explained .
Gabbur explained that verification is the next prerequisite to ensure that evidence uploaded to the Nym network can be used in court. I think one of Russia’s greatest strengths in this war is the region’s ability to deny the credibility of any evidence. Russia’s use of deepfakes and disinformation is another strong point. We must protect ourselves from these attacks.”
Gabbur mentioned that to counteract this, AnonDrop’s image saving features should be implemented to allow for easy verification when documents are considered in court. While these image checks currently exist through tools such as SecureDrop — a solution that allows people to anonymously upload images for media use — Gabbur believes they are limited to isolated bodies.