IGF 2023 WS #535 War crimes and gross human rights violations: e-evidence

Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (08:00 UTC) - Wednesday, 11th October, 2023 (09:30 UTC)
WS 1 – Annex Hall 1

Cybersecurity, Cybercrime & Online Safety
Cyberattacks, Cyberconflicts and International Security

Organizer 1: Nina Lichtner, 🔒
Organizer 2: Giorgi Jokhadze, Council of Europe
Organizer 3: Alexander Seger, 🔒

Speaker 1: Jayantha Fernando, Government, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Alexander Seger, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Additional Speakers


  • Moderator onsite: Zahid JAMIL, barrister at law, Pakistan
  • Moderator online and rapporteur: Giorgi Jokhadze, Programme Manager, Council of Europe
  • Speaker 1 Nataliya TKACHUK, Head of the Information and Cyber Security Directorate, Office of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine
  • Speaker 2 Jayantha FERNANDO, Sri Lanka, CERT
  • Speaker 3 John HERING, Microsoft
  • Speaker 4 Nick WATERS, Bellingcat
  • Speaker 5 Patrick PENNINCKX, Head of Information Society Department, Council of Europe

Alexander Seger, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator

Giorgi Jokhadze, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Nathalie Espinoza, Government, Asia-Pacific Group


Panel - 90 Min

Policy Question(s)

- How can international legal frameworks be utilised to facilitate cross-border cooperation and secure electronic evidence for addressing war crimes and gross human rights violations, and what are the challenges? - How can admissibility and chain of custody requirements be respected in relation to collection and use of electronic evidence and OSINT, and what conditions and safeguards for the protection of human rights should be in place in accountability processes? - How can public-private partnerships be effectively leveraged to enhance the collection, preservation, and sharing of electronic evidence for prosecuting war crimes and human rights abuses?

What will participants gain from attending this session? - Participants will have the opportunity to delve into specific case studies where electronic evidence and OSINT played a pivotal role in documenting and exposing war crimes and human rights abuses. These case studies will highlight successful strategies, methodologies, and lessons learned, providing attendees with practical insights. - The workshop will emphasize the importance of international and multistakeholder collaboration in utilizing electronic evidence and OSINT effectively. Participants will explore existing frameworks, partnerships, and mechanisms to enhance cooperation among countries, organizations and other stakeholders, paving the way for a more unified and coordinated approach towards accountability. - The session will tackle critical policy questions related to collection, admissibility, processing and cross-border exchange of electronic evidence and OSINT, fostering dialogue and debate among different stakeholders and disciplines. By examining policy implications and exploring potential solutions, participants will contribute to shaping effective policies and frameworks in addressing war crimes and human rights violations.


The need for enhanced accountability mechanisms in addressing gross human rights violations, including war crimes has become increasingly evident in recent times. The Russian aggression against Ukraine accompanied by serious violations of human rights and of international law serves as a stark reminder of the urgency to employ effective measures and approaches in pursuing justice. Cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure such as power grids, healthcare facilities, etc often seek to exert pressure by disrupting essential services, compromising sensitive information, aiming to undermine public confidence and ultimately influence political decision-making. Increased awareness and practical skills are needed for identifying and qualifying such attacks not only as serious cybercrime offences but also as elements of war crimes and gross human rights violations. In recognition of the critical role of e-evidence and OSINT, in January 2023, the ECtHR decided, inter alia, on the admissibility of “digital materials” in connection with the case related to the downing of the flight MH17 by a Russia-controlled group over Eastern Ukraine in 2014 that killed almost 300 people (see ECtHR case of Ukraine and the Netherlands v. Russia). The experience gained provides important insights for other countries and regions. Obtaining volatile e-evidence is a complex challenge. Effective public/private and cross-border cooperation – subject to safeguards – is required to ensure the preservation and disclosure of e-evidence. A comprehensive and coordinated approach that combines efforts in the realms of human rights, cybercrime and cybersecurity, and international law is required. The tools of current international frameworks such as the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime are also applicable to e-evidence related to war crimes and gross violations of human rights. Additional tools are now available under the 2nd Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime on enhanced cooperation and disclosure of electronic evidence.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes: - Multistakeholder dialogue and cooperation: Participants will be encouraged to continue engaging in multistakeholder dialogue at domestic levels, leveraging the outcomes of the session to drive implementation in practice. This sustained dialogue will foster collaboration among governments, organizations, and other stakeholders, ensuring the effective utilization of electronic evidence and OSINT in holding perpetrators accountable - Enhanced awareness and understanding: Participants will gain a deeper understanding of the practical application of e-evidence and open source intelligence (OSINT) in addressing war crimes and gross human rights violations, as well as the tools and legal frameworks available for collecting it. Capacity building activities implemented by the Council of Europe will further build on the findings of the session. The Octopus Conference in December 2023 will represent another opportunity to follow-up and build momentum for the identified solutions.

Hybrid Format: There will be a comparable ratio between time allocated for interventions of online participants and time allocated to onsite participants. Close communication between the online moderator and the one on the spot moderator will be ensured. Organisers and moderators have experience in conduction of hybrid events. Use of interactive tools such as Mentimeter and Slido will be explored to improve the participants experience and draw feedback on the discussion points.

Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Reliance on open-source intelligence as source for evidence of war crimes and gross human right violations has quickly become a new feature of recent armed conflict across the world, especially in the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The overall framework of principles of criminal justice, evidentiary rules, and human rights safeguards should still apply and provide guidance on use of such evidence against offenders.

Global standards such as the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and its 2nd Protocol lay down a framework of regulations and safeguards applicable to open-source intelligence as part of investigations into war crimes and related offences. Implementation of these rules and applying in practice, as well as ensuring international cooperation on e-evidence across borders, are equally important to covert it into actionable and admissible evidence

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Open-source intelligence and information should be used & applied as part of overall criminal justice framework, include applicable safeguards and guarantees, should such information be used as evidence in criminal procedure on war crimes or other offences. Use of open-source evidence as criminal justice evidence is still a learning process for everyone involved, thus strong capacity building action is required to improve & strengthen these skill