Speech Minister of Justice and Security at the Opening of the ICPA

Speech Minister of Justice and Security at the Opening of the ICPA on 3 July 2023.

President Hamran, Commissioner Reynders, Prosecutor-General Kostin, Prosecutor Khan, assistant Attorney-General Polite, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of host country the Netherlands, I’d like to welcome you all to The Hague: the international city of peace and justice.

We’ve come together today for the launch of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine, or ICPA. The staff of the Centre, ranging from prosecutors to subject matter experts, deserve our full support as they begin their work.

Together, we’re determined to ensure that the persons responsible for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine are prosecuted. We’ve seen attacks targeting civilians in cities like Kramatorsk, Bucha and Zaporizhzhia. And the recent, inexplicable destruction of the Kakhovka dam has terrible consequences for both people and nature.

The executions, torture, sexual violence – and the destruction of everything that’s important to Ukrainians – would not have taken place without the Russian invasion and therefore they follow directly from the crime of aggression.

The truth must be uncovered and that requires extensive, complex investigation. So basically, the ICPA’s mission is to support the existing Joint Investigation Team, the JIT, and to do as much preparation as possible. That will lay the foundation for prosecuting and trying those who are responsible for the effects of Russia’s aggression.  

The Netherlands is very pleased to be hosting the ICPA. I can’t think of a better place for the Centre than here at Eurojust, with its facilities to support the JIT, and its special database for evidence on core international crimes.

It’s no coincidence that Eurojust is located in The Hague. Work on peace and justice forms a very large part of this city’s role and character. And this has a long history.  

Here in The Hague is where one of the world’s greatest jurists, Hugo Grotius, began his career at the end of the sixteenth century. Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of seeing the impressive Grotius Collection at the Peace Palace Library, just a 15-minute walk from here.

It was quite moving to see with my own eyes the first edition of On the law of war and peace, published in Latin in 1625. That work by Grotius is considered to be the foundation of modern-day international law.

The Peace Palace Library is a treasure trove for scholars, researchers and many others, because it contains both priceless books and valuable current information. It’s very useful for the ICPA that the Library has collected so much information about Ukraine’s past and present, in the light of international law. It also contains a lot of information on the crime of aggression and other international crimes.  

And this is just one example of the many institutions here in The Hague that can inspire and assist the ICPA in its work. The same is of course true of Europol and the International Criminal Court, both also nearby.

The Netherlands is very keen to contribute to the ICPA’s mission and provide active support wherever possible. Your presence here today shows how important the ICPA’s work is.

Along with many other ongoing efforts, it will help ensure that justice becomes a reality for Ukraine and the Ukrainians. Anything less would be unacceptable.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In his work on international law, Hugo Grotius asked: what is just, and what is unjust? And how do you make that determination?

That makes him a source of knowledge and inspiration for me, and hopefully for many of you too. We are connected to him, and I think we owe him a great deal. Because his search for justice continues with us today. And I have every confidence that the ICPA, with support from Eurojust, will make a crucial contribution.

Thank you.