It’s a deep honor and a pleasure to address you today as the 6th Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice. I was sworn in on March 17th of this year, amidst a time of extraordinary challenges and opportunities in the field of international justice.  My job, and the mission of my office, is to advise the U.S. government and engage in international diplomacy and programming to help prevent, mitigate, and redress atrocities through justice and accountability.

Today I’d like to speak about our efforts to combat atrocity crimes and ensure accountability around the world, with a particular emphasis, given recent events, on efforts ongoing in Ukraine, though I will also touch upon our work in other regions, cognizant of the many calls for justice around the world. In addition to outlining some of the atrocity crimes that the U.S. and our partners have been tracking in Ukraine, I will identify ongoing initiatives to ensure comprehensive accountability for those crimes, and address in particular, high-profile proposals to address the crime of aggression as it pertains to Russia’s unjust and brutal invasion of Ukraine.

I should note at the outset that my remarks are intended to inform a robust discussion, in the spirit of critical inquiry, on various proposals for accountability, and should not be understood as a formal position of the U.S. government on specific proposals.

A Short History of the Crime of Aggression

Allow me to briefly recount a history of the crime of aggression, a topic about which I wrote extensively in my previous role as a legal scholar and on which I have previous experience engaging on as an academic advisor to the U.S. delegation to the International Criminal Court Review Conference in 2010 in Kampala, Uganda. The idea of prosecuting those who launch unjust wars has deep roots, although it was not until the post-World War II era that the international community identified the launching of an aggressive war as a criminal act; In the lexicon of the era, a “crime against the peace.” Indeed, it was this crime—rather than genocide—that became the centerpiece of the Nuremberg trial, which was to be the “trial to end all wars.” This pride of place reflected the reasoning, set forth in the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal convened at Nuremberg, that a war of aggression was the proximate cause of all of World War II’s atrocities:

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

Defining and prosecuting a war of aggression, although not uncontroversial, proved relatively easy following the complete defeat of the Axis states that were responsible for acts of aggression in World War II. However, when the international community turned its attention to building what would eventually be known as the International Criminal Court (ICC), controversies emerged to stymie attempts to codify the crime for more general application in the future.

The International Law Commission, the first body to undertake the effort, was unable to agree on a definition of the crime of aggression; this indecision ultimately delayed progress on the ICC project for years.

Starting in 1967, the UN General Assembly tasked several special committees to define aggression. This effort eventually led to a consensus definition in General Assembly Resolution 3314 (1974) that was meant to guide the Security Council in implementing its peace and security mandate for “act[s] of aggression” under Article 39 of the U.N. Charter.

After a period of Cold War quiescence, the ICC idea was revived, and states again sought to define the crime. While influential, the definition of aggression in Resolution 3314 did not easily lend itself to a penal context, so other options were explored.

Delegates attending six sessions of Preparatory Committees in 1996–1998 and the 1998 Rome Conference, where the ICC Statute was finally opened for signature, were again unable to agree on the definition of aggression or on a jurisdictional regime to govern the crime’s prosecution. And so, they punted. Almost everyone agreed to list the crime within the Court’s jurisdiction at the last minute, while delaying consideration of the remaining details to a mandatory Review Conference to be convened in seven years. The only guidance the negotiators in Rome offered their successors was the cryptic declaration in Article 5(2) of the ICC Statute that any preconditions for the exercise of jurisdiction over the crime of aggression should be “consistent with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.” A series of Preparatory Commissions (1999–2002), Special Working Groups (2003–2009) and informal gatherings held at Princeton University (2004–2007) then took up the task in the period leading up to the planned 2010 Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda.

Despite years of multilateral negotiations pre- and post-Rome, delegates arrived at the Review Conference with the most contentious issues still undecided, although the definition of the crime enjoyed a shaky consensus. The perennial difficulty of reaching consensus on when and how to prosecute the crime of aggression stemmed from the recognition that the crime by its nature involves both state action and individual conduct. From virtually the beginning of the negotiations, it was argued that an aggression prosecution should not go forward absent some definitive showing that a state had committed a predicate act of aggression. Where delegations diverged was in deciding which body should be empowered to make this determination: the Security Council, in keeping with its role under the UN Charter as the guarantor of peace and security, or a different body, including perhaps the ICJ or the Court itself.

Because state action was a central element of an aggression prosecution, delegates also raised the question of whether it was necessary for some state—the putative aggressor state(s), the victim state(s) or all of the above—to have consented to the Court’s jurisdiction before a prosecution could proceed. One theory underlying the regime of state consent adopted at Kampala rested on the observation that the crime of aggression implicates state sovereignty more than any of the other three crimes, because a state’s aggression serves as a predicate for the prosecution of an individual for the crime of aggression. None of the other ICC crimes is so dependent on state action. The perceived exceptionality of the crime of aggression as a function of state action supported arguments in favor of premising jurisdiction on state consent.

Although these two issues—the role of the Security Council and state consent—were present in Rome, they emerged in starker relief in Kampala. To a certain degree, the aggression negotiations in Kampala are thus a story about jurisdiction rather than definition. Although all elements of the aggression provisions were open to negotiation in Kampala, the definition of the crime enjoyed strong support. Even France and the United Kingdom had ceased their efforts to revise the definition under consideration, although they later argued that their silence should not be construed to indicate support for the text. Accordingly, the negotiations up to and during the Review Conference focused almost exclusively on the jurisdictional regime to govern the crime, although the United States did seek some interpretative understandings to the definition and around complementarity. Essentially, in the final evening of negotiations, delegates agreed to put in place two conditions reflective of a regime of state consent: a provision allowing for States Parties to “opt out” of jurisdiction and the complete exclusion of the nationals of Non-Party States absent Security Council referral.

Once the amendments entered into force, many wondered whether adding the crime to the Rome Statute was purely a symbolic exercise—completing unfinished business dating from World War II—and whether the crime of aggression would ever be prosecuted.

The Russian Invasion of Ukraine 

It was against this legal backdrop that Russia relaunched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, a date that should live in infamy. This act of aggression is a manifest violation of the UN Charter. Unlike other contemporary conflicts, this war mirrors the archetypal international armed conflict without the complications posed by modern coalition warfare, a splintered opposition, or the participation of transnational terrorist organizations, although Russia has used private military contractors to brutal effect.

We are now six months following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and President Putin’s war on Ukraine continues to result in climbing costs: thousands of civilians killed or wounded, 13 million Ukrainians forced to flee their homes, historic cities literally pounded to rubble. While the epicenter of suffering is in Ukraine, there are expansive global reverberations in the form of food shortages and skyrocketing food prices around the world and an emergent energy war.

Furthermore, Russia’s aggression has been accompanied by mounting evidence of war crimes committed in every region where Russia’s forces are deployed. Secretary Blinken announced this assessment early in the conflict following a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources, and in my first week as Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, I stepped to the podium of the State Department press briefing room to expound on this assessment.

Since then, the horrifying litany of atrocities continues to grow:

reports of Ukrainian citizens killed execution-style with their hands bound; bodies showing signs of torture; a video showing civilians being shot in the back without justification; reports of detainee abuse and mutilation, including a video of a POW apparently being castrated; and

horrific accounts of gender-based violence, including sexual violence against women and children.  Russian bombardments have hit densely populated cities, including residential areas, causing thousands of civilian deaths and destroying civilian infrastructure, including railway stations, rail lines and roads used for evacuations. There is a growing body of credible evidence that Russia’s forces in Ukraine are torturing and summarily executing Ukraine’s military personnel and noncombatants. We also have information to suggest that Russian Federation officials are taking steps to conceal Russia’s role in the death of detainees, likely as a result of violent interrogation methods.

The images, videos, and reports compiling witness accounts suggest these atrocities are not the acts of rogue units; rather, they are part of a deeply disturbing pattern of reports of abuse across all areas where Russia’s forces are engaged. And they are consistent with what we have seen from Russia’s military engagements preceding the Kremlin’s further invasion and full-scale war against Ukraine in Chechnya, Syria, and Georgia.

Russia’s Filtration Operations

As we have seen of late, among Russia’s atrocities are its horrific filtration operations, which involve forced deportations and disappearances. Filtration is a pre-meditated Kremlin policy aimed at suppressing a separate Ukrainian identity and preparing the ground for the “russification” and purported annexation into Russia of parts of Ukraine.  These operations involve, but are not limited to, comprehensive practices designed to intimidate local populations and identify individuals Russia deems insufficiently compliant or perceives to be opposed to its control.  Individuals face one of three fates after undergoing filtration: being issued documentation and remaining in Russian-held Ukraine, being forcefully deported to Russia, or being detained in prisons in eastern Ukraine or Russia. Some who “pass” filtration are deported far into Russia and are subjected to poor conditions, including a lack of food, and limitations on their movement. Putin’s filtration operations entail separating families, confiscating Ukrainian citizens’ passports, and issuing Russian Federation passports in an apparent effort to change the demographic makeup of parts of Ukraine currently under Russia’s control.  Evidence is mounting that Russia is using this filtration process to “disappear” thousands of Ukrainian citizens.  Eyewitnesses, survivors, and Ukraine’s General Prosecutor have reported that some Ukrainian citizens identified for filtration may have been tortured and summarily executed, consistent with evidence of atrocities committed by Russia’s forces in Bucha and Mariupol.

Estimates from a variety of sources, including the Russian government, indicate that Russian authorities have interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, from their homes to Russia—often to isolated regions in the Far East.  The independent Conflict Observatory program, which the U.S. Department of State is proud to support, released a report recently identifies 21 sites—in the Donetsk oblast alone—associated with filtration operations.  These identifications were based on a combination of open sources, including overhead imagery, traditional news media sources, and personal accounts of these activities shared via social media.

And the publicly available report, prepared by a group of independent experts at Yale University, included only sites that could be verified by at least five independently corroborated open-source reports.  That means many other potential sites were not included since the report had such a high threshold for inclusion.

Efforts Toward Accountability

The international community, with strong leadership from /the United States, has swiftly activated a range of accountability mechanisms in the global system of international justice. The United States is supporting all extant international efforts to investigate and examine atrocities in Ukraine. Those efforts include, of course, the investigation by the International Criminal Court, but also the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, the OSCE’s “Moscow Mechanism,”

the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, and the Joint Investigative Team coordinated through Eurojust. Separately, the United States has also welcomed proceedings under the Genocide Convention before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), a case in which the United States has moved to intervene in recent weeks.

But there is much more to report on. This includes recent amendments to Eurojust regulations, for instance, allowing that organization to be a repository of evidence of core international crimes. The opening of national investigations in at least 14 states (and growing) evidences deepening state practice regarding the use of structural investigations and universal jurisdiction.  The massive collective state referral to the ICC evidences enormous international political will and faith in the ICC. Moreover, we must all applaud Ukraine’s adept use of a broad range of legal forums to press its claims under the principle of state responsibility, including not one but two cases at the ICJ (one under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on Terrorist Financing, and the other under the Genocide Convention).

In addition to supporting these international efforts, my office has deepened and expanded our pre-existing partnership with the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG). Through a project led by one of my predecessors, former U.S War Crimes Ambassador Clint Williamson, we have deployed teams of international investigators and prosecutors to assist the new Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, in documenting, preserving, and preparing war crimes cases for prosecution. This work is part of a multilateral initiative, the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group for Ukraine (ACA), which we launched with the European Union and the United Kingdom to coordinate support and provide strategic advice and operational assistance to the OPG.

The ACA aims to streamline and coordinate the myriad efforts going on in Ukraine. The initiative consists of two distinct components:  a Prosecution Support Unit that provides direct advice and counsel to the OPG on international humanitarian law, building case files, and prosecuting crimes, and Mobile Justice Teams that accompany Ukraine’s investigative and prosecutorial teams on the ground. The ACA is designed to ensure that we deploy our financial means wisely, avoid duplicating our efforts, and recruit the best experts in the world to assist the OPG in its challenging, but crucial work as the primary domestic accountability mechanism for grave crimes.

The Prosecutor General has already identified tens of thousands of incidents that may constitute war crimes—and this without complete knowledge of what is unfolding in areas still under Russia’s control.  This is an enormous amount of evidence and data to sift through, and we expect that evidence of more atrocities will continue to emerge. Indeed, Ukraine may overtake Syria as the most documented crime base in human history. The ACA specialists will assist the OPG in sifting through these case files and prioritizing those that have sufficient evidentiary support to pursue.

International courts and multilateral institutions are complementary to national proceedings.  Ukraine’s OPG is therefore playing a crucial role in ensuring that those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities are held accountable through both its own efforts and in its coordination with multilateral institutions. The ICC’s Karim Khan has visited Ukraine three times and has developed a robust partnership with the OPG to lay the groundwork for an eventual division of labor.

Given the justice and accountability imperatives Ukraine is facing, the U.S. government is investing in multiple additional lines of effort.  Beyond those outlined above, these include training and technical assistance for civil society efforts to gather, document, and report on violations of international humanitarian law and enhancing the ability of civil society, journalists, and other partners to effectively and securely share information. To impose costs on, and promote accountability for, malign actors, we have used our sanctions authorities to designate a wide range of individuals and entities, including members of Russia’s military. And we have steadily declassified an unprecedented range of information to inform the world of Russia’s actions and counter intense Russian disinformation campaigns.

Our Department of Justice is also engaged. In June 2022, I traveled with Attorney General Garland to the Polish-Ukrainian border, where, during a meeting with the previous Ukrainian Prosecutor General, the Attorney General announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team to centralize and strengthen the Justice Department’s ongoing work to hold accountable those who have committed war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine.  The Attorney General has appointed Eli Rosenbaum to lead this initiative as Counselor for War Crimes Accountability, a formidable choice given Eli’s long and storied career in identifying, denaturalizing, and deporting Nazi war criminals from the United States. Eli recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about gaps in Title 18 that hinder the ability of the United States to prosecute crimes emerging from Ukraine and elsewhere when perpetrators are within our jurisdictional reach.

In this work, I cannot underscore enough the importance of sustaining international alliances, partnerships, and global solidarity for the success of these accountability initiatives. All of you in this room know from experience the painstaking work, financial resources, institutional support, challenging legal waters, and diplomatic leadership

required to ensure that accountability institutions are effective at delivering on the core mandate of justice.

In this regard, the United States helped inspire and then co-sponsored the Ukraine Accountability Conference in The Hague in July.  This was a key moment for the international community to reinforce our collective efforts toward accountability for serious international crimes that have been committed in Ukraine and in other parts of the world.  Representatives from 45 countries signed a Political Declaration strongly condemning the acts of aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.  The statement noted that Russia’s blatant violations of the Charter of the United Nations threaten international peace and security, gravely damage the rules-based international order, and undermine democratic values.  My recent meetings with foreign counterparts at the U.N. General Assembly underscored the importance of condemning Russia’s aggression and continuing to press forward in the pursuit of ensuring that Russia is held to account for its atrocities.

The rapidity, scope, and scale of the accountability response is truly unprecedented—and immense work lies ahead in making sure these mechanisms and initiatives are fully “inter-operable” and maximally effective.

The Imagined Tribunal for Aggression

Notwithstanding this intense activity, a juridical gap remains unfilled: there is no international court that has jurisdiction over the crime of aggression. To be sure, Ukraine’s ICJ case puts Russia’s aggression in issue, and war crimes cases around the world will be premised on Russia’s invasion and bombardment of Ukraine, but as it stands, President Putin cannot be prosecuted for his original sin. This gives rise to a set of important normative questions: would atrocity crimes prosecutions be enough to capture the world’s opprobrium? Bearing in mind the expressive function of the law, could atrocity crimes charges alone redress the fundamental breach of international law occasioned by Russia’s blatant war of aggression?

These concerns undergird the various proposals to create a stand-alone international tribunal on aggression. Many of you in this room have contributed to such proposals, draft resolutions, and sample indictments, drawing on your considerable experience and knowledge of potential models and international law. The government of Ukraine has asked the international community to establish such a tribunal on multiple occasions, including last week in its many interventions and bilateral meetings at UNGA High Level week.

Turning to the question of how to create such a tribunal, norm entrepreneurs are exploring a number of modalities for the creation of such an institution, including: a multilateral treaty that would pool national jurisdiction; an agreement with a regional body such as the European Union or the Council of Europe; or an agreement with the United Nations, particularly given that action at the Security Council is foreclosed by Russia’s veto power. While precedents exist for some of these arrangements—including the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Extraordinary African Chambers formed by Senegal and the African Union—many outstanding questions and issues remain.  These include foundational questions regarding the legal authorities such mechanisms could wield, their envisioned efficacy given limitations in their authority, and the sequencing of institutional development.  They also include pragmatic considerations, like where to find sustained funding (e.g., voluntary vs. assessed contributions), and legal questions without clear precedent, such as how to interpret any leadership clause, the extent of any immunities potential defendants might enjoy, or whether there should be pendent jurisdiction over other related crimes (such as an act of transnational bombardment that may constitute a war crime itself).

But there is also the essential predicate question of whether this is a necessary and valuable initiative.  A tribunal on aggression would likely focus on political leaders and other decisionmakers, although it is important to note that most of these individuals are located in Russia and unlikely to appear before such a tribunal.  Accordingly, there may be certain limits on what a tribunal can achieve in this context, including with regard to enhancing normative principles of justice.  In the endeavor to promote accountability, the United States is, at the moment, exploring these proposals but we remain highly focused on supporting existing mechanisms that are already operational and that are most likely to be effective in bringing perpetrators to justice.

In addition, we also need to consider the priorities and needs of victims. This is not a new dilemma for justice advocates. My predecessor Stephen Rapp often recounted that during his time as prosecutor in Sierra Leone he regularly encountered victims with amputated limbs and empty bellies, who supported retributive justice while also noting they could not “eat a verdict.” The government of Ukraine, while advocating for a mechanism to address Russia’s aggression, has also identified as a priority the need for war reparations and an international claims mechanism for Ukraine. As such, the international community is starting to think about setting up a process for registering claims as an initial first step.  However, there are a number of questions about the goals and practical elements of such a process that still need to be discussed and sorted out.

In the coming weeks and months, the international community and Ukraine will have to grapple with difficult questions such as: How do we prioritize efforts to establish a tribunal for aggression alongside other pressing needs? How do we build multilateral support for any effort while states within the global south understandably grumble about the amount of attention paid to a war in Europe? And, have we sufficiently listened to victims about their priorities? There are inevitable trade-offs and no easy answers; but there rarely are, in this line of work, and we look forward to having those conversations in the months ahead.

As these conversations are underway, it is important to recognize the growing perception by many States, especially from the Global South, that the concerted response to accountability for atrocities in Ukraine stands as a stark exception to an inconsistent and uneven response to atrocities in many other parts of the world.  My role as Ambassador-at-Large in the office of Global Criminal Justice—emphasis on the global—is to promote justice and accountability around the world, and as such, I must engage seriously with these perceptions of bias, double standards, and selective justice. When it comes to international crimes, there is only some justice in some places for some people some of the time. All of us here have dedicated our careers to rectifying that reality, recognizing that there must be greater equality in the global distribution of accountability for international crimes.

Justice Efforts Elsewhere

On that note, and before closing, I would like to highlight some of our work in other regions of the world, which is just as fast-moving and challenging as ever. Starting in Asia: in Burma, we are continuing to promote justice and accountability for atrocities committed by the Burmese military. The United States has taken steps to support the case The Gambia has brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), asserting that Burma violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention in relation to Rohingya.  At the request of the The Gambian government, the United States shared information in our possession with The Gambia that is relevant to its case.

We also provide support to the UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) which has a mandate to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Burma since 2011, and to prepare files in order to facilitate fair and independent criminal proceedings in national, regional, or international courts or tribunals that have or may in the future have jurisdiction over these crimes. Last week at UNGA, I was able to announce that the United States would provide an additional $1M to the IIMM to enhance its capacity to protect witnesses and victims. This follows upon an initial grant of $1M to strengthen its capacity to conduct open-source investigations. We are also sharing relevant information with the IIMM and providing significant diplomatic support in order facilitate its work.

The United States works with international partners and NGOs to support brave Rohingya seeking justice in the courts of Argentina for the atrocities committed against them.  And we are working with the Rohingya community to help document the atrocities and abuse committed against them and stand ready to support a holistic transitional justice process to address the long history of atrocities and abuses against Rohingya—a process that respects the demands of victims for truth, reparation, justice, and non-recurrence—once that becomes viable. Finally, Secretary Blinken has made clear that the United States “supports measures by the UN Security Council to promote justice and accountability for the military’s actions in line with its mandate to promote international peace and security, and in this vein, we would support a U.N. Security Council referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court.”

When it comes to abuses in China’s Xinjiang province, where our Secretary has determined that genocide and crimes against humanity have occurred, we are—as we speak here today—engaging with the United Nations member states to call for a discussion of the OHCHR’s August 31 assessment of human rights abuses in Xinjiang released by former High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet just minutes before the end of her term in office, and which explicitly raises the possibility of “crimes against humanity” having been committed by the Chinese government. China, meanwhile, would like to bury the report and is putting intense pressure on HRC members to reject further consideration of it.

In Afghanistan, we are closely monitoring the increasingly alarming reports of human rights abuses taking place in the country in the last year and are working with our multilateral partners to ensure that the U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan has the resources needed to adequately monitor and document these abuses.  We strongly support Afghan civil society and human rights activists working on the ground under extremely difficult circumstances.

In Central and South America, the United States continues to promote accountability and transitional justice processes. In Colombia, we are supporting the transitional justice processes created by the 2016 peace accords, including working to ensure the Special Jurisdiction for Peace can fulfill its complicated but critical mandate. In Guatemala, where the rule of law and an independent judiciary are under threat, the United States is calling for fair, independent cases regarding the violations during the internal armed conflict, including the Diario Militar case, which my colleague David Mandel-Anthony recently attended. In El Salvador, the State Department worked with the Department of Defense to share declassified documents with judicial authorities regarding the El Mozote massacre.

My first trip to the African continent was to the Central African Republic where there is a fascinating experiment in hybrid justice underway, with national courts, the Special Criminal Court, and the ICC all operating with concurrent jurisdiction. The SCC is doing amazing work with limited resources and international attention. And yet, it is posed to make important contributions not only to local justice but also to theories of institutional design.  I next visited Ethiopia at a time when the ceasefire in the north had been holding for several months, which opened up political space to talk about what a process of transitional justice might look like. Needless-to-say, the the recent resumption in hostilities has overtaken these events, but we stand ready to be a partner in transitional justice, while cautioning that any initiatives must be scrupulously fair, transparent, inclusive, and balanced.  Tomorrow, I head out to The Gambia, where there is a nascent transitional justice process underway following recommendations from an impressive truth commission, and then to Liberia, where the victims of the country’s brutal civil wars are still demanding justice notwithstanding the passage of time and very concrete proposals for a hybrid court.

Finally, we continue to support the work of international and hybrid tribunals, including the residual functions of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and Special Court for Sierra Leone. In Kosovo, we are deeply committed to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, which were established to investigate and prosecute allegations of serious crimes that either commenced or took place in Kosovo from 1998-2000.  The work of the Specialist Chambers demonstrates Kosovo’s commitment to the principle that the right of victims to justice must be protected without discrimination.

Concluding Remarks

Just as the Allies at the end of the Second World War advanced the imperative of justice and ushered in a new era of accountability for the worst imaginable crimes, it falls to us to ensure that those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine be held to account.  Jurists from the Soviet Union contributed to the very legal architecture used to prosecute those responsible for the gravest crimes at Nuremburg.  Tragically, President Putin has turned his back on this history, and on Russia’s international and domestic legal obligations, including under the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Conventions.  Today, we must work together to ensure that the principles of justice and accountability championed at Nuremburg are not only maintained but also strengthened.

It is not easy to pursue comprehensive accountability. Each situation presents its own nuances and challenges. With each new justice proposal, we must grapple with the complex political, legal, and normative questions that inevitably emerge. The danger, of course, is that perpetrators will wait us out; we saw it in Syria, and we risk seeing it in Ukraine.  When it comes to Ukraine, time is Putin’s greatest weapon, and there is an urgent need to ensure the existing accountability mechanisms deliver on the promise of justice, for the victims and survivors and for the integrity of our cherished values, norms and principles, both in Ukraine and around the world.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future