Statement at the Arria-formula Meeting on Accountability in Ukraine
Statement27 April 2022
Thank you very much indeed Minister, thank you Madam Chair, and thanks to Albania and France also for organising today’s discussion. We are really proud to be a co-sponsor of such an important exchange.
I’d like to thank all our briefers. Their presentations were powerful but they were also stark at times, appropriately so.
It is said that all it takes for evil to triumph, is for good men – I would argue good women - to say nothing. In the face of Russia’s unlawful and unjustifiable further invasion of Ukraine, the members of this house of the United Nations cannot afford to say nothing. We cannot afford to stay quiet and that’s why many of us are stepping in where the Security Council has failed. And we are speaking out forcefully.
However, as the true horror of the atrocities allegedly committed in Ukraine come to light, disapprobation is simply not enough. As Irish Minister Simon Coveney told the Security Council last week, there are rules, even in war. And, when those rules are broken, there must be accountability.
That is why timely, credible investigations are so vital. It is why evidence must be rigorously documented. It is why witnesses, victims and survivors must be supported.
We contend that the scope for impunity is diminishing. In contrast to 20 years ago, the International Criminal Court now stands as the first permanent international court with the power to prosecute atrocity crimes, including those happening in Ukraine.
Ireland joined over 40 states to refer the situation in Ukraine to the ICC. Recognising the pressure this investigation will place on the Court, we are also committing additional funding to assist in the investigation of all situations before the ICC.
We welcome the announcement by the Office of the Prosecutor that it will participate in the Joint Investigation Team on alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine. That will help to ensure cooperation, coordination and collective action between the ICC and national authorities, including in Ukraine.
And just today we have heard a powerful statement from the Prosecutor General of Ukraine speaking to the scale of her office’s investigation of Russian war crimes.
However, notwithstanding these efforts towards accountability. Notwithstanding the provisional measures indicated by the International Court of Justice, Russia’s aggression continues unabated.
Russia has not only ignored international humanitarian law but, in the words of the High Commissioner, it has tossed it aside.
From the reporting of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism’s mission of experts we can now see clear patterns of violations of international humanitarian law by Russia. Evidence of such violations continues to mount, from the destruction of Mariupol Hospital by Russian airstrikes, to indiscriminate attack on Kramatorsk train station. We have seen mass graves being excavated in Bucha and elsewhere.
We have heard harrowing reports of conflict-related sexual violence, which, we also must stress, can constitute a war crime. There can be no impunity for such abuse.
The Human Rights Monitoring Mission has recorded over 5,000 civilian casualties in Ukraine. An appalling figure, which we know doesn’t reflect yet those casualties in areas of intense fighting such as Mariupol, Izium and Popasna, where reports of abominable summary executions of civilians are emerging.
Ireland is fully committed to accountability for these heinous actions and for those which have yet to be uncovered.
Moving ahead, as Ida Sawyer pointed out earlier, cooperation and coordination of all our accountability efforts will be key. For this reason, we want to acknowledge here today the efforts by the Group of Friends on Accountability in Ukraine to coordinate and share information on existing and emerging accountability initiatives. We welcome the work by EUROJUST and the EU Advisory Mission to ensure that domestic and international investigations are supported. And Mr Moses statement today that the Commission will be reaching out the ICC Prosecutor is also very important.
As I conclude, Madam Chair, I would like to say a word directly to Ukrainian women and men who today must be harbouring doubts that justice will ever be delivered.
I deeply regret that the Security Council has failed. We have failed in our collective duty to prevent conflict and maintain peace in Ukraine. We all know why. However, even as this unjustified war continues, there are those amongst us who will not stop trying. There are those who will continue to demand justice for the crimes committed. I want to recall the words of the great Nelson Mandela who remarked “it always seems impossible until it’s done”.
From Rwanda to Cambodia – Bosnia to Sierra Leone – accountability for such crimes once may have seemed impossible, until it was done. Rest assured that Ireland will work tirelessly to ensure that you, the women and men of Ukraine, that you too obtain justice. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes will be held to account. We owe you nothing less.