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A project of the open source Justice and Accountability Unit

In partnership with

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a large-scale air and ground invasion of Ukraine. Within hours, it was clear that grave civilian harm was to be a significant feature of this conflict, with millions forced to flee and others killed or injured in their homes. Attacks have already resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and destruction of civilian and critical infrastructure including hospitals, schools and apartment blocks.  

In response to the invasion, GLAN and Bellingcat have launched a Justice & Accountability project to investigate alleged atrocity crimes taking place in Ukraine. The aim of the project is to conduct a set of open source investigations into incidents causing civilian harm occurring in Ukraine according to robust legal standards with the aim of making them available to national and international prosecutors who are gathering evidence of alleged crimes.

On 10 and 11 March 2022, GLAN and Bellingcat gathered at Bindmans LLP in London to begin planning for this long-term project, and discussed all aspects of the investigation, preservation and databasing process, including data protection and privacy concerns, so that the evidence could have the greatest possible chances of successful introduction in criminal courts as evidence.

The investigations will utilise the methodology that GLAN and Bellingcat have developed and tested through years of collaboration on the Yemen Project, which aims to practically implement best practice for open source investigations to ensure that this vital information can be used as evidence in legal accountability proceedings. The methodology has been tailored specifically to the Ukraine context for use by Bellingcat’s Justice and Accountability Unit, taking into account all legal principles and international guidelines such as the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Information.

The open source content gathered during Bellingcat’s investigations will be preserved by Mnemonic, an independent third-party organisation maintaining an archive of digital content from Ukraine, as it has done for Syria, Yemen and Sudan.

The evidence gathered through this Justice & Accountability project will in parallel be collated and arranged in an analysis database which can be searched and filtered in order to conduct legal analysis of compliance with International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law.



In February 2024, three GLAN lawyers travelled to Ukraine to deliver training to 50 Ukrainian judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers on our open source evidence methodology. They travelled with our investigative partners at Bellingcat and were invited and hosted by the European Union Advisory Mission Ukraine.


Over the past six months, our team have designed a training course which addresses how to gather open source information from social media and use it as part of criminal proceedings in war crime cases. At last week’s training in Kyiv there were representatives from the Office of the Prosecutor General, Kyiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office, the Supreme Court, the High Anti-Corruption Court, district courts, the Defence Skilled Attorneys Group and other defence lawyers.

The feedback our team received from some of the prosecutors was that this knowledge could transform which cases they are able to take forward and how they assess evidence. Attendees were particularly excited about the possibility of using open source information as evidence in occupied territories, where collecting other forms of evidence is extremely hard. Our team also received positive feedback from the six Supreme Court Judges who attended. Part of our training programme included a session delivered by Judge Joanna Korner of the International Criminal Court who advised the legal community to “grasp the nettle” and harness the plethora of unavoidable, and incredibly valuable, open source evidence that is everywhere in the modern digital age.


We are already discussing a return trip with the EUAM to deliver training to a wider cohort of Ukrainian legal professionals working on war crimes. We intend to revise our training course to reflect the discussions and feedback from this trip, and to be applicable to all experience levels.  

There are currently more than 100,000 open war crimes cases in Ukraine. With our training, Ukrainian lawyers and judges are better equipped to process the streams of open source evidence to ensure accountability is secured against perpetrators of war crimes. 

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