Speech by Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius at the international meeting of justice ministers on war crimes in Ukraine
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I’d like to start by thanking our host, Dominic Raab, for bringing this impressive group of people together.
On the first day of the war, President Zelenskyy addressed the Russians and told them ‒ in their own language: ‘if you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs’. For the Russians, it was a message of warning. For the Ukrainians, a message of defiance. And for us, Ukraine’s allies, a message of encouragement. We were already compassionate, but those words filled us with admiration. And revealed to us the heart of the Ukrainian people.
But the message was also a promise that had yet to be fulfilled. A fearless declaration that was easier said than done. Especially as time passed and the most horrific crimes were being perpetrated against civilians in cities like Borodianka and Bucha, and villages like Shevchenko and Lozova.
It wasn’t only military bases or arms depots that were being attacked.
No, it was also residential areas and public parks where, until recently, ordinary people would take a stroll or play with their children. After more than a year of heavy fighting, the Ukrainians are still showing their faces and their courage.
They have no intention of abandoning their country.
Men and women, both conscripts and volunteers, have taken up arms to defend their country. And courageous young people are using social media to galvanise the world. Before the war, their online videos were about make-up and cars.
But now they are posting harrowing images of bombed-out buildings and showing the disgraceful way that Russians are taking control of their cities and villages.
These young people are asking the outside world, asking us, for help.
Meanwhile, women are providing food and places to sleep in air-raid shelters. And grandmothers are sewing camouflage outfits for all those brave soldiers at the front. Ukrainians of all ages are giving it their all and using every means at their disposal to resolutely defend their homeland.
They are motivated by love of their country. But we realise all too well that they’re not just doing it for themselves. They’re also doing it for us. Because here in the UK, on the continent and around the world, our freedom and our security are at stake. If we fail to draw the line now, where will it end?
Russia’s hopes that Ukraine would simply collapse were dashed. In fact, the opposite happened: Ukraine showed unity.
And now we must show unity, too.
Together we must take responsibility for making sure that the perpetrators of these crimes are prosecuted. Together we must establish the truth, achieve justice and ensure security.
Immediately after the invasion, the International Criminal Court begun gathering and securing evidence. Field investigators, analysts and forensics experts have no time to lose.
Especially as we are hearing more and more reports of summary executions, torture, sexual violence, forced transfer of children and destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Your presence here today supports the ICC in its mission to punish perpetrators of international crimes worldwide. I say ‘worldwide’ because, although the war in Ukraine is the reason for our meeting today, there are many other active armed conflicts around the world.
With the victims of those conflicts in mind, we fully support the ICC’s broader mission.
The Netherlands reiterates its strong support for the ICC. The ICC is at the centre of our efforts for the investigation and prosecution of core international crimes.
For the ICC to fulfil this mission, it is of utmost importance that State Parties provide adequate resources through the regular budget.
Complementary to the regular budget, states can also provide voluntary support, which comes in many forms.
Such as knowledge, expertise, equipment and funding.
All of these resources are equally valuable.
Last year, for example, a Dutch forensic investigation team took part in the ICC’s largest mission ever.
Professor Bela Kubat was a member of that team.
As a forensics expert, she believes she has a duty to help bring war crimes to light. Such dedication is highly commendable.
Especially if you consider that, during the team’s missions in May and December, the missile attacks continued unabated.
More missions will be conducted in the spring and autumn if the situation allows.
Wouldn’t it be terrific if the speed of our collective action and investigations could serve as a blueprint for future ICC investigations?
We are doing all we can. We cannot close our eyes when horrors like this are unfolding.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Ukrainian people have shown us more than once that they will have the last word on their future.
They are battered but never broken. Angry and frustrated, but never defeated.
And together with Ukraine, we’re drawing the line.
Together with Ukraine, we will make sure there’s no impunity for the Russian invader.
Together we will do everything in our power to ensure that justice prevails and that the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes are held accountable.
Together with Ukraine, we are striving for justice, security and peace.