ALUMNI PROFILE Christina Conroy (MJ ‘20)

Preserving war stories

Christina Conroy collects war-crime evidence for Ukraine

Christina Conroy’s (MJ ‘20) first and only visit to Ukraine was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. While working on her MJ in Rule of Law for Development at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, she lived in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and worked with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. Though she had to return stateside earlier than expected, she stayed in touch with her colleagues—and when Russia invaded Kiev in 2022, she knew she wanted to offer “something more than thoughts and prayers.”

Now a third-year Loyola law student working toward her JD, Conroy works from Chicago as a freelance legal analyst for the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. With the help of a Loyola grant, she has built a team of 10 Loyola student and alumni volunteers who trawl open-source media (mostly Twitter) to find, analyze, and preserve evidence of war crimes.

“When the war escalated at the end of February, it was a no-brainer,” she says. “That was a responsibility I had, morally, to return to doing that work and trying to offer any help that I could.”

“It takes years for international courts to make determinations about war crimes.”

Conroy’s team collects videos and photos of bombings, massacres, and any content they think might be useful evidence in a future courtroom. Then, Conroy analyzes the content according to international and Ukrainian domestic law, and saves everything to encrypted files. This kind of work offers no instant resolutions. She is rarely in touch with her Ukrainian colleagues, who were forced to flee the city they call home. And from a legal standpoint, the evidence might not be relevant until far in the future. “It takes years for international courts to make determinations about war crimes,” she says. “It’s just our job to start looking while the evidence is fresh, and try to preserve it and keep it safe.”

Conroy works full-time as a law clerk at Fuksa Khorshid, LLC, and fits her Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union work into nights and weekends. Her volunteer team also includes a mental health professional to help the volunteers process vicarious trauma. “People stepped up and are doing really difficult work,” she says.

While the invasion of Ukraine’s capital made international headlines in 2022, the Russo-Ukrainian war began in 2014. While in Kiev, Conroy attended a United Nations event where she heard survivors tell their own war stories. Those stories continue to inspire her today. “I think identity is something worth saving,” she says. “We’ve seen so many examples from our history of some insolent ruler trying to take away what is fundamental to humans. It comes down to human rights for me.” –Megan Kirby (July 2022)

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Rule of law underlies all political, economic, and social goods. To overcome today’s development challenges—violence, infringements of human rights, environmental destruction, poverty and hunger—rule of law is essential.

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