05 April 2022

Quinn Emmanuel (and other law firms) acting on pro bono for Ukraine

On further legal procedures related to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, latest news confirm that the US firm Quinn Emmanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has been appointed as counsel to the Ukrainian Mistry of Justice to bring proceedings against Russia, under the European Convention on Human Rights. First of all, the L.A. based firm has called the invasion “unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful acts of aggression”.

Quinn Emmanuel will be acting on a pro bono basis, with UK partners Alex Gerbi and Julianne Hughes-Jennet, as well as Timothy Otty (QC from Blackstone Chambers) and Guglielmo Vierdirame (QC from Twenty Essex). Gerbi already represented Ukraine last year over a dispute of $3bn dispute with Russia as well; Hughes-Jennet expects the court to rule on the matter and assures “attorneys are monitoring the situation”.

The Council of Europe, was born right after the 2WW with 46 member states with the purpose of taking care of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the continent. The European Convention on Human Rights ECHR, was drafted in 1950, entering into force three years later, also stabilising the European Court of Human Rights ECthHR in Strasbourg. Any person who feels their rights threatened can take a case to this court, to which states are obliged to execute judgements. Russia having been expelled from the Council of Europe as of 16 March 2022 ceases to be a party to the convention in accordance with article 58, nevertheless, the court has declared it "remains competent to deal with applications directed against the Russian Federation in relation to acts or omissions" occurring until that date.

Ukraine has already declared massive human rights violation committed by the Russian troops, while Russia claims a special military operation. A recent statement from the legal representing firm declared "Ukraine and its legal team are deeply committed to ensuring that Russia’s egregious conduct is subjected to full scrutiny before the Strasbourg Court and that Russia is held to account for its heinous ongoing breaches of the most fundamental rules of international law which are causing such devastation to Ukraine and its people".

But again, it’s never so easy when it comes to Russia… In fact, since the country has just withdrawn from the Council of Europe, all petitions against Moscow are yet suspended until the consequences of Russia’s exist are considered on liability basis. 

While Covington & Burling are on their side representing Ukraine before the ICJ, which already ordered the Russians to stop all military operations with no visible result. This firm is operating pro bono too, together with the Task Force on Accountability for Crimes Committed in Ukraine.

Morrison & Foerster are also advising President Zelensky and other officials on behalf of the economic sanctions that have been adopted in order to counterattack Russian offensive.

The Task Force earlier mentioned, is led by Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, aided by French firm Sygna Partners and partnering with Microsoft to configure evidence of war crimes. Its main purpose is basically “securing justice for the civilians who are victims of Russian aggression and associated violations of international law”.

From Withers LLP, Emma Lindsay will front a team of 15 lawyers to assist Ukrainian government. “We have worked closely with the Government of Ukraine for many years,” she said, “and this initiative is without a doubt the most important project on which we have advised the government to date”. The London based firm promised (pro bono) to advice on accountability through the United Nations and other organizations, to represent on civil and criminal cases, and to guide cooperation between Ukraine and the ICC.

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