It’s a deep honor to address you today as the 6th Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice. I was sworn in on March 17 of this year, at a time of extraordinary challenges and opportunities for the field of international justice.
My job and the mission of my office is to advise the various components of the U.S. government on the development and execution of policies to help prevent, mitigate, and redress atrocities through justice and accountability. To this end, we also engage in international diplomacy on the multilateral stage to build partnerships of likeminded states, and we deploy a small programming budget to help partners strengthen their capacity for this work.
Advancing accountability for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity are the guiding principles in my work, as we all recognize the importance of accountability in dealing with the past and ensuring a lasting peace. And we work towards these objectives by staying mindful about survivor-led approaches to accountability that include transitional justice mechanisms that can be vital to psycho-social healing and restoring a sense of justice within communities wracked by violence. Keeping this in mind, I’d like to highlight some of the particulars of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to combat atrocity crimes and ensure accountability around the world. Although I will put particular emphasis, given recent events, on ongoing initiatives in Ukraine, I will also focus upon our work in other regions, cognizant of the many calls for justice around the world, including Libya. I hope that these remarks will serve as a bit of a survey of the current state of play in the field of international justice given that:
The globe is increasingly united around the imperative of justice and accountability for the commission of international crimes. This newfound global solidarity has been inspired by Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine, with the ongoing commission of war crimes and other atrocities by members of Russia’s forces, but the growing demand for accountability is finding expression elsewhere as well.
The institutional framework for criminal accountability is increasingly decentralized and multipolar; while the ICC remains important and salient, other institutions are increasingly engaged in this work at the domestic and international levels.
Moreover, we are seeing a deepening state practice around the use of structural investigations in the face of atrocity crimes and exercise of [extraterritorial][universal] jurisdiction over [those who stand accused of committing] international crimes.
And, norm entrepreneurs—many of whom are in this room—continue to explore and develop new initiatives to further comprehensive accountability for international crimes.
The Biden-Harris Administration has strengthened multilateralism by Reinvigorating international alliances, ensuring that they have strong and capable leadership, and working through, and with, them to strengthen the rules-based international order.
The Biden-Harris Administration is pursuing an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal at home and abroad.
Rather than shrugging at, or denying, planetary crises, the Biden-Harris Administration is rejoining, and taking a leadership role in, international efforts to tackle the greatest threats faced today through collective action.
This approach to international affairs extends to international criminal justice.
The ICC Reset
Prior to my appointment, the Biden-Harris Administration launched an early interagency process, to reset the U.S. relationship with the ICC and return to constructive engagement.
As part of this process, [President Biden] pulled down the sanctions that had been imposed on the ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and one of her deputies and confirmed that the sanctions should never have been issued.
The United States’ new stance was announced by the U.S. U/S for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya in her intervention at the ASP (Assembly of States Parties) in December 2021.
This statement recognized that the Court is an important component of the ICL ecosystem and the global fight against impunity for the worst crimes known to humankind and relayed that the US is continuing to look for ways to assist the work of the Court.
When I assumed my post, I thus inherited a clear mandate to continue to rebuild the U.S.-ICC relationship. Although we are a non-party state, there is much that we can do to advance the work of the Court as it seeks to provide a measure of justice to victims and survivors around the world. On my first international trip as AAL, I undertook an itinerary of great symbolic import, visiting Nuremberg, Geneva, Brussels, and The Hague to convey the Biden-Harris Administration’s new approach toward international justice efforts and help to rebuild relationships with the Court and States Parties.
One element of this relationship involves actively supporting the Court’s work across a range of situations, including through direct, practical cooperation:
For example, when it comes to the Darfur cases, the United States welcomed the opening of trial proceedings in the case against Ali Mohammed Ali Abd-al Rahman, a former Janjaweed commander also known as Ali Kushayb. This marks the beginning of the first trial against any senior leader for crimes committed by the Omar al-Bashir regime and government-supported forces in connection with the genocide and other atrocities in Darfur.
As many of you will recall, during the administration of President George W. Bush, the United States launched a unique population-based survey within Darfur refugee camps in neighboring countries. This generated important data that undergirded the United States’ determination that genocide was being committed in Darfur.
As Sudanese stakeholders work to find a way forward to address the current political crisis, we have strongly urged the Sudanese authorities to continue to comply with their international legal obligations pursuant to SC Resolution 1593 and to fulfill commitments made in the Juba Peace Agreement, and to cooperate with the ICC. In this regard, we have insisted that Sudanese authorities continue to: permit ICC teams to travel within the country, cooperate with requests for evidence and other information and assistance, offer unimpeded access to key witnesses, and facilitate an enhanced ICC field presence.
We must all insist that those who are subject to arrest warrants by the ICC in the Darfur Situation must face justice.
We are at a moment when we are again witnessing increased violence in Darfur and the Two Areas—Blue Nile & South Kordofan. The Ali Kushayb trial is a signal to those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in Darfur that impunity will not last.
The U.S. stance also involves providing steady diplomatic support for the Court in multilateral fora and in our bilateral relationships around the globe.
In several recent visits to The Hague, I met with all ICC organs to express U.S. support for their work, convey our willingness to engage, and solicit ideas for how the United States could help advance the Court’s work.
I also held a number of bilateral and multilateral meetings with ICC States Parties in an effort to expand our engagement, discuss the work of the Court in particular regions, and gain insights on other approaches to international justice.
I also delivered an intervention at the OAS during a Working Meeting to Strengthen Cooperation with the International Criminal Court in which I announced U.S. support for the Court’s work in Venezuela. I recognized that the region had pioneered many of the mechanisms that comprise the transitional justice tool kit and that are now employed around the world to address legacies of authoritarianism, state repression, and mass violence.
We have hosted the new Prosecutor, Karim Khan, for his two official visits to Washington. His trips involved in-depth and very senior interagency engagement plus focused sessions on a number of ICC situation countries.
In December, I will be the first GCJ Ambassador to lead our delegation to the ASP in 6 years [or: since 2017], where our office will serve in an Observer role and also organize a side event on Witness Protection with Sweden, Argentina, and the ICC registry.
In addition to this support for the Court itself, I have begun to visit ICC situation countries:
In my first trip to Africa as AAL, I visited the CAR, where there is a grand experiment in hybrid justice underway with three levels of activity: trials in national courts, trials before the hybrid Special Criminal Court, and trials before the ICC.
I was deeply impressed by the dedication of the national and international professionals staffing the SCC, who are making important strides with limited resources. Indeed, the SCC heard its first case against members of the 3R rebel movement (Return, Reclamation & Rehabilitation) who stand accused of committing massacres in several villages in 2019.
The Biden-Harris Administration has strongly supported Congressional appropriations of $6 million to enhance the work of the CAR SCC. This funding is geared toward victim and witness protection, administrative and technical support, and forensics.
In this regard, we welcome strong cooperation between the organs of SCC and their counterparts at the ICC to advance justice for the people of the CAR. The SCC will make important contributions not only to local justice but also to theories of institutional design.
The United States has also contemplated a potential new Security Council referral. In his statement marking the 5-year anniversary of the 2017 genocide and crimes against humanity in Burma against Rohingya, Secretary Blinken announced U.S. support for measures by the UNSC to promote justice and accountability in line with the Council’s mandate to promote international peace and security.
This followed upon a moving speech by Secretary Blinken at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in March 2022 announcing the US determination that the Burma military’s campaign of violence amounted to a genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya.
The United States also 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. In this vein, the United States would support a UN Security Council referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court.
The U.S. remains strongly committed to advancing justice for all people in Burma, particularly following the February 2021 military coup and the crackdown on peaceful protests that followed.
We continue to support the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the IIMM, created by the U.N. HRC to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze potential evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law committed in Burma since 2011. At UNGA High Level week this year, I was able to announce an additional $1M grant to the IIMM to strengthen its ability to ensure victim and witness protection, for vulnerable survivor witnesses but also defectors and insiders who are willing to turn state’s witness. This follows an initial $1M grant to support the development of the IIMM’s open-source investigative capacity.
Our work on Burma also includes promoting the cooperation of states in the region with the IIMM as it executes on its important mandate.
We have also shared information with The Gambia in connection with its ground-breaking case under the Genocide Convention and supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation against Burma before the International Court of Justice. As folks here will know, The Gambia recently achieved an important victory with an almost unanimous judgment rejecting preliminary objections to jurisdiction filed by Burma.
In November, I visited Argentina, where prosecutors have also opened an investigation under universal jurisdiction into the Rohingya genocide following a complaint filed by the Burmese Rohingya Organization of the UK on behalf of six women in Bangladesh, and have separately worked to bring several perpetrators of Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ to justice.
To support the execution of ICC warrants for arrest, we are reinvigorating the WCRP, which my office administers.
This program offers rewards for information leading to the arrest, transfer or conviction of designated individuals who stand accused of committing war crimes,CAH or genocide.
We have revitalized our campaign with respect to Joseph Kony, the messianic head of the LRA, and the 4 remaining Rwandan fugitives from justice.
And we are looking [to make additional designations in the coming months][at whether additional designations would help advance the Court’s efforts].
Other International Justice Efforts
This is a snapshot of our work vis-à-vis the ICC, but the Biden-Harris Administration is also supporting other international investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial mechanisms around the world.
For example, the United States fully supports the priorities of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), including
the expeditious completion of trials and appeals,
locating and arresting the remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and assisting national jurisdictions prosecuting international crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The appellate confirmation of Ratko Mladic’s conviction in June 2021 underscores that those who commit horrific crimes will be held accountable, and it reinforces our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world. We are grateful for the years of work by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in carrying out justice in this and other cases.
The U.S. remains a strong supporter of 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 provide impartial justice to the victims of these crimes.
USG contributed over $32 million to support the international component of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, which has just wound down its operations, and is funding several legacy projects.
In addition to its assistance to the IIMM, the U.S. is also working to ensure that other multilateral investigative mechanisms are able to fully carry out their important mandates, including through the provision of diplomatic support and information sharing to the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for Syria and as strong supporters of UNITAD in its continuing investigations of the commission of international crimes in Iraq.
This includes the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) for Syria, which is responding to numerous requests for information (RFIs) from national investigation and prosecution teams in Europe for their ongoing investigations and prosecutions in cases involving ISIS and the Assad regime, including the groundbreaking Anwar Raslan trial in Germany.
Also on Syria, the United States recently announced its support for the call to establish a stand-alone UN entity focused entirely on clarifying the fate and whereabouts of Syria’s missing and arbitrarily detained persons, in parallel with bolstering existing measures. The status quo is unacceptable, and we will continue to work with our partners to advance progress in the General Assembly over the coming months. We support the tireless efforts of Syrian human rights defenders, survivors, and families who despite immense suffering lead the charge on the search for the missing, and look forward to working with them, the UN, NGOs, and partners to make this stand-alone entity a reality. Although such a mechanism would be decoupled from criminal accountability efforts, this initiative is extremely important to provide clarity to families who have suffered for so long and to contribute to stability and peace in Syria.
Likewise, we are a strong supporter of UNITAD as it is continuing its investigations of the commission of international crimes in Iraq, including gathering evidence with respect to crimes against Christians and Shia in the Camp Speicher massacre and facilitating the exhumations of Yezidi victims so that human remains can be returned to their families for a proper burial.
In Geneva, the United States is a member of the Sri Lanka Core Group at the HRC to, among other things, support justice and accountability for the atrocities committed during the civil war with the LTTE. We helped to establish, and then renew the mandate of, the OHCHR Sri Lanka Accountability Project (OSL-AP). Through our direct programming, GCJ is working toward the implementation of the transitional justice recommendations in HRC Resolutions 46/1 and 51/1. Likewise, we advocated for the extension of Human Rights Commission in South Sudan, a two-year extension of the Venezuelan FFM, and pushed (unsuccessfully for now, unfortunately) for the reestablishment of independent, internationally backed monitoring and reporting on human rights violations and abuses in Yemen to address Yemenis’ calls for justice and accountability.
In Ethiopia, I advocated for unhindered access for the Ethiopia Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE), whose mandate was extended for an additional year. The United States continues to call for unhindered access to northern Ethiopia for credible international human rights monitors.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a manifest violation of the UN Charter. Mounting evidence reveals that this aggression has been accompanied by blatant atrocities in every region where Russia’s forces have been or are currently deployed.
This includes ongoing attacks against civilian infrastructure and cities; reports of custodial abuses of civilians and POWs; and efforts to cover up these abuses.
This also includes the construction of a vast transnational infrastructure of “filtration” operations that results in people being deported, mistreated, tortured and even killed by Russia’s forces and their proxies for any perceived loyalties to Ukraine and if they are deemed an impediment to Russia’s predatory designs on Ukraine.
The images, videos, and credible witness accounts suggest these atrocities are not the acts of rogue units; rather, these atrocities are part of a deeply disturbing pattern of reports of abuse across all areas where Russia’s forces are engaged.
And the pattern is consistent with what we have seen from Russia’s military engagements preceding the Kremlin’s February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine—in Chechnya, Syria, and Georgia.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the damage it has wrought, have inspired an unprecedented array of accountability initiatives. The United States supports all existing international efforts to investigate and examine atrocities in Ukraine. This includes the work of the:
International Criminal Court (ICC)
UN Independent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Ukraine
Expert Missions under OSCE’s “Moscow Mechanism”
UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU)
The Joint Investigative Team coordinated through Eurojust, which recently drafted regulations enabling it to serve as a repository of evidence related to international crimes.
All these efforts reveal that the various investigative and reporting efforts are becoming increasingly interoperable, sharing information, strategies, and personnel to advance the cause of justice on all available jurisdictional bases.
In September, the United States filed a declaration of intervention in Ukraine’s case against Russia under the Genocide Convention before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). We also are tracking closely Ukraine’s litigation against Russia before the European Court of Human Rights and the opening of national investigations in at least 14 countries (and growing).
The Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group
Notwithstanding all these international justice efforts, which are important, the main engine of accountability when it comes to the war in Ukraine will be Ukraine’s courts.
GCJ has thus expanded the U.S. Department of State’s pre-existing partnership with the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) by supporting the deployment of teams of international investigators and prosecutors to assist Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin in documenting, preserving, and preparing war crimes cases for prosecution.
This initiative is supported by the EU and UK under the rubric of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA), which aims to streamline and coordinate 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 will provide assistance and advice to Ukraine’s investigative and prosecutorial teams on the ground.
The ACA is designed to ensure that the efforts of donor governments and entities are coordinated. In this way, we aim to avoid duplicating 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 these crimes.
This is complementarity in action.
To support these efforts, our Bureau of Conflict & Stabilization Operations has provided support to the independent Conflict Observatory, which uses open and commercially available data — such as satellite imagery and information shared via social media—to help document the horrible consequences of Russia’s war, such as attacks destroying or damaging hospitals, educational institutions, and precious cultural property. The Conflict Observatory released a report on Russia’s filtration operations, identifying with a high degree of corroboration 21 sites where filtration is happening. An additional analysis released in November indicated unjust detentions and disappearances in Kherson. In this region, the Conflict Observatory has documented the cases of more than 220 victims, survivors, or witnesses of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, including gender-based violence. But the actual number of people these heinous acts affect is no doubt higher.
Finally, we are taking action in the United States to advance accountability for those responsible for committing war crimes across the globe.
In June, the Attorney General announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team and the appointment of Eli Rosenbaum, who boasts a long career as a Nazi hunter and War Crimes Counselor on Ukraine. The DOJ’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) is investigating and as appropriate prosecuting cases arising from atrocities in countries around the world—including a successful case against the so-called Beatles, torture charges against a member of the Gambian Junglers death squad and a U.S. contractor accused of torturing detainees, and perpetrators of atrocities in Liberia who have engaged in immigration fraud to come to the US—all to ensure that the United States is not a safe haven for perpetrators, notwithstanding a very limited jurisdictional reach.
Training up USG on longer term transitional justice including in the Atrocity Prevention training and interagency trainings.
National TJ proceedings
My office also has a mandate to support genuine transitional justice processes underway in states emerging from periods of mass violence and repression to ensure that justice is meaningful and accessible to survivors and that countries work towards a durable peace.
Indeed, I visited Ethiopia during a period of time in which a humanitarian truce had been in place for over five months, which had opened a window of political space for government and civil society actors to begin discussing what transitional justice might look like for Ethiopia. Needless-to-say, the resumption in hostilities in August overtook those events for some time, but we continue to stand at the ready to be a partner in transitional justice to ensure that any initiatives are scrupulously fair, transparent, inclusive, and balanced. The fact that the new Cessation of Hostilities agreement specifically includes commitments to pursue transitional justice is a welcome development, although many challenges to implementation remain. It is imperative that international human rights investigators have complete access to all areas of the country, especially Tigray, and that their work is transparent and fed into a process that will lead to accountability, truth, and reconciliation [for all parties to the conflict]. We are also following the reopening of corridors and resumption of humanitarian assistance to those in desperate need, particularly in Tigray.
In this regard, the United States strongly supports the implementation of Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord. This includes support for the three components of the Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Non-Repetition:
the Truth Commission, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and the Search Unit for the Disappeared. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace is a unique transitional justice mechanism, that combines elements of truth and acknowledgment, criminal prosecutions, and reparative justice to address conflict-related atrocities and abuses which took place over more than 50 years. The United States, including the Office of Global Criminal Justice, is working with international and Colombian partners to support the work of the JEP to help it achieve its ambitious and critical mandate.
I also recently visited The Gambia to learn more about nascent efforts toward a hybrid court following upon the work of a very successful Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. The Government accepted almost all recommendations of the TRRC and so now the challenge is one of implementation. I then visited Liberia, where there has been no justice in Liberia after 20 years of civil war. My trip involved engaging with government actors, members of civil society, and victims’ advocates to better understand the political blockages, brainstorm potential solutions, and demonstrate support for accountability.
Strengthening the Capacity of Civil Society
In situations in which there is no justice mechanism, or where civil society actors are working to shape such mechanisms, the USG is helping to fund and advise human rights advocates as they seek to document the commission of international crimes and human rights abuses and promote justice and accountability.
This includes the work of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus (IAPB), a unique consortium of civil society actors working to lay the groundwork for justice and accountability for human rights abuses committed in Belarus.
Likewise, in 2021, GCJ launched its first program in South Sudan, led by my predecessor David Scheffer, focused specifically on building the capacity of legal professionals to address serious violations of international law in connection with transitional justice and domestic accountability mechanisms, including trauma awareness and reconciliation.
GCJ and DRL operate complementary Rapid Response Consortium Mechanisms comprised of expert NGOS that advance transitional justice and atrocity prevention initiatives by providing technical support to governments, state institutions (including judges, prosecutors and investigators), civil society and victims’ groups. The GCJ Consortium responds to emerging transitional justice needs, particularly in the area of justice and accountability. [NOTE: Center for Justice and Accountability is the face for the consortium- the other partners have requested to not be named].
All this work with civil society includes thinking creatively about how we as an international community can pursue solutions for justice issues that intersect with new technologies. Key initiatives include those focused on: enabling the preservation and collection of social media content related to international crimes; enhancing the cyber and digital security of institutions, witnesses, and victims; and preventing mass atrocities instigated through dangerous speech, misinformation, and disinformation.
We are also working to ensure that justice processes have the evidence they need to determine the facts and allocate responsibility. To this end, the United States has declassified information critical for domestic accountability exercises, as in the El Mozote case in El Salvador.
In recognition of one of the key vulnerabilities in the system of international justice, GCJ is teeing up a global conversation about the imperative of witness protection GCJ recently hosted a side event with the Atlantic Council at UNGA High Level week. As spotlighted at the side event:
We are seeing reprisals and threats to victims/witnesses and “insider witnesses” in variety of contexts including the “Grave digger” in Anwar Raslan case Germany, Kosovo, and transnational threats such as from Russia and Iran.
Resources are lacking to help protect victims and witnesses in international and national prosecutions
We will follow on with this work at a side event at the ASP in December and elsewhere.
We are also engaging U.S. agencies on what role the U.S. may play in information-sharing by highlighting this important issue and discussing what reforms (legislative or otherwise) may be needed to play a more helpful role.
This brings us to Libya.
Progress on any meaningful justice or accountability in Libya has, unfortunately, been slow-moving. Nonetheless, international mechanisms for documentation and investigation such as the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) and the International Criminal Court, as well as human rights organizations such as the Libyan American Alliance, Lawyers for Justice in Libya, and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), have stepped in to fill the gaps and lay the necessary groundwork for future accountability. We continue to believe that resolving political uncertainty and promoting accountability in Libya will go a long way toward addressing the chronic instability Libya continues to face, including the mobilization of armed groups. It is for this reason that the United States continues to support the Libyan people in their pursuit of justice.
We welcome the renewal of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the appointment of Special Representative Bathily in addition to the reinvigoration of efforts to secure an agreement on a constitutional framework for elections and for Libya to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.
Ongoing, iterative multi-stakeholder engagement is central to our work, which includes an integrated, cross-regional approach to atrocity prevention efforts across the Sahel, Maghreb, and Coastal West Africa.
On the justice front, the U.S. strongly supported the mandate renewal for the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) at the UN Human Rights Council in June and welcomed its most recent report, which includes detailed findings on the situation in Tarhuna, including the discovery of mass graves, one of which International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan visited during his recent trip to Libya in November.
The FFM, established at the request of Libya in 2020, has compiled an important set of recommendations for the international community to do more to promote stability and justice in Libya. In particular, the Fact-Finding Mission’s report called for the need to urgently address the proliferation and legitimization of armed groups acting as “islands of control” in Libya outside of State authority. The report thus urged the international community to provide support to disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs. In light of this, we call for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign fighters, foreign forces, and mercenaries from Libya, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2656 (2022) and the October 2020 ceasefire agreement of the Joint Military Commission. While the ceasefire remains in place, and Libya hasn’t descended into the large-scale violence of 2019-2020, it continues to face institutional division, misgovernance, bouts of violence, and human rights abuses against Libyans and migrants alike.
On the situation in Tarhuna, the FFM had found reasonable grounds to believe members of the al-Kaniyat militia committed a number of crimes against humanity through underlying acts of extermination, imprisonment, torture, persecution on political grounds, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts. The FFM also identified three possible locations of undiscovered mass graves. It therefore offered its assistance to the Libyan authorities to use its findings in the search for buried victims.
The FFM and the UN Support Mission in Libya have also identified clandestine detention centers… according to the FFM, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the CAH of murder, torture, rape, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts have been committed in several places of detention in Libya since 2016. In its June 2022 report, the FFM called on Libya to “ensure that all prisons and detention facilities are brought under the supervision of the judiciary and the effective control of the Ministry of Justice”; “ensure respect for due process, immediately release those who are arbitrarily detained and ensure respect of all rights of detainees, such as the right not to be subjected to torture and cruel treatment, including sexual violence”.
The FFM emphasized that the survivors with whom it spoke all demanded truth, justice, reparation, peace, and accountability. The FFM thus encouraged the international community to support the Libyan authorities so that they can deliver fair and credible justice to their people and others who find themselves the victims of international crimes in Libya. In addition, it called upon other states to exercise universal jurisdiction to arrest and prosecute perpetrators who are found on their territories and who stand accused of committing the international crimes detailed in the FFM’s reports.
At this juncture, however, the FFM is unfortunately scheduled to release its final report and then conclude its excellent reporting, which has helped to shed light on some of the atrocities perpetrated in Libya. We commend its work and those who have investigated and reported on these atrocities.
The Libyan authorities can—and must—do more to support and advance accountability efforts going forward. This includes cooperation with the ICC. Former senior officials of the Qaddafi regime such as Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, who is still subject to an ICC arrest warrant on charges of crimes against humanity, must face justice. It should be emphasized that the Court’s investigation into the situation in Libya and against Saif al-Islam Qaddafi have been pending for over eleven years, since 2011, yet the Libyan authorities still have not cooperated to help bring him to face justice in The Hague. This must happen as soon as possible.
On November 9, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan briefed the UN Security Council from Libya, the first time a prosecutor had ever done so, and announced to the Council he has applied for new arrest warrants in the Libya situation. He said that he saw conditions in Libya that amounted to “calculated inhumanity”, including mass grave sites. He also described his visit with Khalifa Haftar, noting that he told Haftar that the OTP had received evidence of crimes committed by the Libyan National Army. He said that “justice can’t be a value; it can’t be an idea; it needs to be felt by the people of Libya”. The OTP noted in a report that [these] [its] findings were achieved despite the “complex political landscape and security situation in Libya”. The victims of atrocities in Libya, including those in the mass graves in Tarhuna, and migrants who have faced gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, all deserve a measure of justice and accountability, including acknowledgement of what they—or their loved ones—experienced, and an opportunity to heal. We remain deeply concerned about the fate of migrants passing through, or being trafficked through, Libya, including women and children who experience sexual violence, and urge Libyan authorities to take credible measures to dismantle the trafficking and smuggling routes. We support the FFM’s call for Libya to end the automatic and arbitrary detention of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and not to subject them to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, sexual violence, exploitation, and forced labor.
In conclusion, while there is much happening in the international justice realm, it only scratches the surface of the acute needs and more needs to be done on the preventative side. Just as the Allies at the end of the Second World War ushered in a new era of accountability for the worst imaginable crimes, it now falls to us to ensure that those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities around the world are held to account. We must work together to ensure that the principles of justice championed at Nuremberg are maintained and strengthened.
We cannot overlook the growing perception by many states, especially from the Global South, that the concerted response to Ukraine is a stark exception to an inconsistent and uneven response to atrocities in many other parts of the world. We must engage seriously with these perceptions of bias, double standards, and selective justice. All of us here must dedicate our careers to rectifying this reality and working toward a more equitable distribution of justice for the commission of international crimes.
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.