Statement to Ukraine Accountability Conference: The Hague
Statement by Secretary of State Blinken, as delivered in The Hague by Under Secretary of State for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights Zeya.
Thank you to the Netherlands, the European Union and the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for convening this conference.
As this meeting takes place, Russian forces continue to commit atrocities in Ukraine with heartbreaking intensity, as they have done since the February 24 invasion of their sovereign neighbor.
With each day, war crimes rise. Grated. Torture. Extrajudicial executions. Disappearances. Forced deportations.
Attacks on schools, hospitals, playgrounds, apartment buildings, grain silos, water and gas installations.
These are not the acts of rogue units. They fit a clear pattern in all parts of Ukraine affected by Russian forces. And they clearly correspond to previous Russian actions in the conflicts in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria and Ukraine from 2014.
Each of these attacks claim victims.
Like the 47 people killed, including a nine-year-old boy, in a Russian strike on an apartment complex in Chasiv Yar last weekend. This number will likely increase as first responders continue to dig through the rubble.
This is just one of more than 20 attacks… in a single day… in one region of Ukraine.
Each atrocity sends waves of suffering that most of us cannot comprehend – inflicting wounds on victims and their loved ones that may never fully heal.
It is our responsibility to hold the perpetrators accountable – and to bring justice and support to the growing number of victims.
We can support Ukraine’s Attorney General’s Office in its efforts to hold perpetrators accountable to the country’s justice system and to coordinate international investigations – as the United States, European Union and United Kingdom are doing. through the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group. .
We can support national courts as they establish jurisdiction over individuals accused of committing international crimes in Ukraine – and over Ukrainians deported to Russia.
We can support existing international and multilateral efforts to collect and examine the growing evidence of atrocities in Ukraine, including that of the International Criminal Court.
We can undertake our own efforts to gather evidence of war crimes and make it available to national and international investigations, as we do through the Conflict Observatory.
We can support the work of civil society groups that document abuses and provide support to survivors. And we can better integrate their findings into investigations.
We can provide survivors with access to medical care, psychosocial services and other life-saving support. And when we collect evidence from these people, we can ensure that we engage in a survivor-centered and trauma-informed way, so as not to exacerbate their suffering.
Countries from all regions of the world are already supporting many of these efforts, a testament to our global unity alongside the victims in Ukraine. But this attention makes our coordination crucial.
The same goes for justice efforts around the world.
Since February 24, I have spoken with human rights defenders around the world, and they have repeatedly issued two warnings about this crisis.
First, allowing serious abuses in Ukraine to go unpunished will not only embolden the Kremlin, but brutal regimes around the world.
And second, the international community must give more attention and resources to other parts of the world where atrocities are being committed with impunity.
They are right.
We don’t have to choose between focusing on justice in Ukraine and other crises.
Whatever we do to lay the foundations for accountability in Ukraine, we can and must do wherever atrocities are committed. All victims of serious international crimes deserve equal access to justice, regardless of where they occur or who commits them.
So let us use the clarity and unity of this moment to expand our ambition – knowing that the steps we take for justice everywhere will advance the fight against impunity everywhere.
For the history of the pursuit of justice teaches us that these efforts can take years, even decades. Just ask some of the countries represented here. Like Colombia. Ireland. Bosnia Herzegovina.
Or ask the victims of Branch 251 of the Assad regime, where thousands of civilians were tortured at the start of Syria’s civil war. From 2011 to 2012, this facility was overseen by Syrian Colonel Anwar Raslan. He was detained in Germany in 2019 and then tried in a German court. In January 2022, Raslan was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.
A single conviction may seem small in the face of the atrocities committed in Syria, but in the words of a survivor who testified at Raslan’s trial, “it’s the start of a journey.”
We owe it to victims around the world – and to those vulnerable to such atrocities – to work tirelessly to end these crimes. And we owe it to them to stay on the long road to justice. So when the perpetrators are finally forced to defend their crimes – and that day will come – the prosecutions against them will be beyond reproach.