Ministers, excellencies, friends, and colleagues: It is an honor to represent the United States at this moment of truth for advancing international justice, accountability, and the rule of law.
Genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other atrocities, including conflict-related sexual violence, destabilize nations and regions and threaten international peace and security. By joining our efforts to hold perpetrators to account, we provide a measure of justice to victims and survivors.
Sadly, war crimes and other atrocities, including notably “filtration” operations, are being committed before our eyes in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s premeditated and unprovoked war. As Secretary Blinken stated yesterday, the unlawful transfer and deportation of protected persons is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians and is a war crime. We call on Russia to provide outside independent observers access to so-called “filtration” facilities and to forced deportation relocation areas in Russia.
The Kremlin has taken aim not only at Ukraine, but at the very principles underpinning peace, security, justice, and international law established in the wake of two World Wars.
Today, it falls to all of us here to ensure that these principles, which we have championed since Nuremburg, are maintained and strengthened. We cannot allow atrocities to occur with impunity.
This conference, therefore, is a sign of our collective commitment to holding those responsible for atrocities accountable. We appreciate the focus of this conference on the need for coherence of action.
For Ukraine, it is critical that we all continue to improve coordination of efforts to support Ukrainian Prosecutor General Venediktova, who has a central and crucial role in pursuing accountability through both her own efforts and in coordination with international institutions such as the International Criminal Court.
We further support unified and coordinated action for all existing efforts to examine mounting evidence of atrocities in Ukraine, including the International Criminal Court, the UN Commission of Inquiry, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, the expert missions established under the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism, and the Joint Investigative Team coordinated through Eurojust.
It is also important to continue to support civil society organizations documenting atrocities, and we stand ready to support national courts that establish jurisdiction over individuals accused of international crimes in Ukraine.
In this regard, under the European Democratic Resilience Initiative, we have created a Conflict Observatory, a digital platform to document, verify, and disseminate open-source evidence of human rights abuses and war crimes in Ukraine. This documentation is available to others engaged in accountability efforts, including domestic and international justice mechanisms.
Of course, our accountability efforts do not begin or end with Ukraine; as Secretary Blinken has noted, we also cannot lose sight of the imperative to pursue justice for survivors of atrocities in other situations around the world. We applaud recent court decisions, including in Sweden, Germany, and here in the Netherlands, holding perpetrators accountable for atrocities in Syria and Iraq and welcome further collaboration to help deliver justice to these victims.
I assure you that the United States is fully committed to strengthening international action to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, and all forms of gender-based violence, using a survivor-centered approach. Starting this year, we’re focused on documenting conflict-related sexual violence in Burma and Sri Lanka, ensuring that these efforts are led by survivors in their pursuit of justice, and propel local, regional, and international justice agendas.
In the face of Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine, the principles of international justice are ever more important to defend. The ideas and energy generated today should catalyze mutually supportive action for accountability in Ukraine and galvanize our collective efforts as we pursue justice worldwide.
With this, I am pleased to turn to my colleague, Counselor Eli Rosenbaum of the Department of Justice. Thank you.