ICC Prosecutor visits Ukraine, Poland to engage all actors for effective and independent investigations
Today, I visited western Ukraine and Poland in connection with the ongoing investigation by my Office into the Situation in the Ukraine. This has allowed me to personally assess the situation on the ground, meet with affected communities and to further accelerate our work by engaging with national counterparts.
During my time in western Ukraine, I met with Excellencies, Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Iryna Venediktova, Prosecutor-General of Ukraine. My message was clear: we stand ready to work with all relevant national authorities in order to obtain information, build a collective effort to establish the truth and ensure that individuals responsible for international crimes are held accountable in a court of law. I am sincerely grateful for the willingness of the Foreign Minister and the Prosecutor-General to meet at an incredibly difficult time for all those in Ukraine.
I was also pleased to have the opportunity during my visit to meet virtually with His Excellency, Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine. We were united in our view that every possible effort should be made to ensure that the conduct of hostilities does not give rise to breaches of international humanitarian law and that civilians are protected from the effects of conflict. I emphasised my willingness to expand collaboration with all relevant national authorities in order that we can together ensure that alleged violations of international law are thoroughly investigated.
During my visit, I have also had the opportunity to meet with those who have been forced to flee due to the hostilities in Ukraine at Medyka refugee reception centre in Poland. The accounts I have heard from men, women and children have deepened my concern regarding the impact of this situation on the civilian population.
I wish to send a clear message to all those participating in hostilities.
If attacks are intentionally directed against the civilian population: that is a crime that my Office may investigative and prosecute. If attacks are intentionally directed against civilian objects, including hospitals: that is a crime that my Office may investigate and prosecute.
Those taking part in these hostilities, whether as regular armed forces, militias, or self-defence groups, must know that in putting on a uniform or by carrying weapons they are not absolved of responsibility but indeed they take on extra legal obligations. For those that do not act in accordance with international humanitarian law, my Office is empowered to take action to ensure that those who have committed international crimes are held accountable in accordance with the Rome Statute. We are already actively collecting evidence in pursuit of this objective, and I believe my visit today will strengthen that work.
The work of my Office in relation to the Situation in Ukraine will at all times be carried out in a manner consistent with the founding principles of the Rome Statute. We conduct our work with independence, impartiality and integrity. I have underlined that I wish to engage with all parties to the conflict.
In line with this approach, I have also transmitted a formal request to the Russian Federation to meet their competent authorities and discuss the current situation as it concerns my Office’s mandate. It is in my view essential that the Russian Federation actively engages in this investigation and I stand ready to meet with them.
My visit to Ukraine has also underlined the significant task we face in ensuring that the full range of documentary, digital, forensic and testimonial evidence is drawn upon as part of our investigations. The scale of this investigation and the challenging environment in which it will be conducted give rise to unavoidable demands on my Office which I intend to meet with an effective response.
It is therefore essential that the collective support of all States Parties is maintained as our work now moves to an important stage. I would reiterate my call to those States to provide assistance to my Office including through voluntary financial contributions and the provision of national experts on a secondment basis. This will be essential in addressing the urgent resource needs of my Office and in allowing us to effectively address all situations presently under investigation or in trial.
I wish to extend my thanks to the Polish authorities for their support with respect to the elements of my visit held in Poland today. I was pleased to hold an initial meeting this afternoon with His Excellency, Zbigniew Ziobro, Minister of Justice of Poland. Tomorrow, I will be engaging with other senior government officials in Warsaw to further strengthen the basis for collective action towards accountability for atrocity crimes.