Speech by Wopke Hoekstra at the United for Justice Conference in Lviv, Ukraine

Speech by Wopke Hoekstra, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the United for Justice Conference in Lviv, Ukraine on 3 March 2023. The spoken word applies.

Mr President, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

For more than a year now, you have defended yourself against the unwarranted, unprovoked and illegal Russian invasion of your country.

In the face of violence and injustice, you have stood firm – and continue to do so.

As last week’s vote in the UN General Assembly made clear: the vast majority of states stand with you.

We support you – and will continue to support you – for as long as necessary in your fight for freedom, sovereignty and a just peace.

It’s this last ideal – justice – that has brought us here today.

I am an admirer of Cicero, who once observed that ‘in times of war, the law falls silent’.

But here, the ancient master of oratory was wrong.

Two millennia later, two lawyers from Lviv have shown that it shouldn’t.

Raphael Lemkin, who invented the legal concept of genocide, and helped create the genocide convention, lived and studied here.

As did Hersch Lauterpacht, who developed the legal concept of crimes against humanity, and helped to prosecute war criminals in Nuremberg.

Two of the foundational ideas in international justice come from this city.

Today’s proceedings are surely inspired by their legacy.

Because the law does not fall silent in times of war.

There can be no peace without justice, or without accountability.

That is true everywhere, and especially here, after everything Russia has done on Ukrainian territory.

The murders, the sexual violence, the targeting of civilian infrastructure, the systemic abduction of Ukrainian children.

Small children are being kidnapped, brainwashed, and forced to become Russian citizens.

Russia’s invasion is not just a war, it’s an attempted colonisation, an attack on Ukrainian identity.

All its war crimes and crimes against humanity must be investigated and prosecuted in accordance with international standards.

Ladies and gentlemen,

That’s an enormous task, and one we can only complete together.

I want to thank President Zelenskyy, Minister Kuleba, and Prosecutor-General Kostin for hosting us here today.

We are in this with you, and will help you in any way we can.

The ICC is making a strong effort to investigate crimes committed here.

The Netherlands is supporting these efforts by providing forensic teams.

We’re also an active member of the core group on the establishment of a tribunal on the crime of aggression.

We will host the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression in The Hague.

And we will host a register of damage, in consultation with Ukraine and our European partners.

As we said at last year’s Ukraine Accountability Conference in The Hague: we are in this together.

There, we discussed the need for increased coordination on accountability initiatives.

Forty-five states expressed their political commitment to a Dialogue Group to achieve this goal.

To bring parties together, to exchange information, and to improve cooperation.

Today, I am proud to announce the official launch of this Dialogue Group, together with my colleagues from Ukraine, ICC Prosecutor Khan, EU Commissioner Reynders and Eurojust President Hamran.

This Group will provide states, international organisations, and civil society with a platform to discuss and update each other on national and international accountability initiatives.

To strengthen coherence and identify needs and opportunities.

I want to thank all the involved parties for their commitment, and invite all those who have not yet joined to participate in the Dialogue Group.

Together we can ensure that the law never falls silent in times of war.

Thank you.