In what could be a first, crypto-based evidence may be used to prove in court that Russia engaged in acts that can be described as war crimes. Starling Lab, a research facility linked to Stanford University, is spearheading the collection and verification of evidence to support this effort. That evidence has been found on the internet.
For example, there is a photo that was uploaded by someone on Telegram. The photo showed a school building in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv with a blast hole in one wall, and the user claimed that a missile fired by Russia was responsible for that damage. If this claim is true, it can be used to prove that Russia violated international law by deliberately targeting an educational institution.
The team at Starling Lab isn’t just focusing on any alleged evidence found on the internet. Instead, they have focused on the possible violations Russia committed in the first two weeks of March, and that photo falls within that timeframe. This evidence is collected and then verified using many technologies, including geolocation and collaborating evidence from other sources, such as Human Rights Watch; In addition, the lab also works to verity that investigative stories done by reputable media houses like the CNN.
All these “threads” are linked together using blockchain technology, the technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The purpose of this verification trail is to ensure that the evidence can stand the rigorous scrutiny of court, and that it is protected from tampering by elements that may be interested in altering the narrative surrounding these different incidents. The blockchain tech also helps preserve vital evidence in case a website pulls down a story or a Twitter user deletes a tweet or account.
Starling Lab and the other entities it is working with are hopeful that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will use the dossier they have submitted detailing at least five attacks that meet the criteria of possible war crimes against Russia. The team believes that its work is bringing to life the objective stated by the ICC in its strategic plan spanning 2016–18 indicating that the court was looking to work with nongovernment actors in the use of technology to gather evidence useful to the court.
If prosecutors are to use the evidence submitted by Starling Lab, they will need to sort it in terms of relevance to specific cases or individuals who have surrendered to the court. They will also need to prove other aspects of the cases, such as the intent of the alleged perpetuators of the attacks against schools.
One thing that can’t be ignored in this effort is the increasing role that social media as well as blockchain technology may have in the way cases are prosecuted in the future. Blockchain and entities such as HIVE Blockchain Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: HIVE) (TSX.V: HIVE) are showing that there is no limit as to how this technology can be put to use around the world.
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