“I have now completed my fourth official visit to Ukraine. This mission came at a pivotal moment, allowing us to take key steps forward in our investigative work, deepen our engagement with national authorities and meet with those impacted by alleged international crimes in Ukraine. I leave Ukraine with a sense that the momentum towards justice is accelerating.
In Kyiv, I joined our team of investigators and analysts who have been on the ground continuously since May last year, visiting sites of alleged attacks on critical civilian infrastructure as well as homes destroyed by missile strikes. Together with the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Andriy Kostin, we underlined our collective commitment to ensure that such acts are fully investigated and those responsible for alleged international crimes held to account.
During my visit, I was pleased to meet on two occasions with the President of Ukraine, His Excellency Mr Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Our common message was clear: the pursuit of justice is a collective one, and one that requires collaboration and effective communication while respecting the independent exercise of the respective mandates of my Office and those of Ukrainian authorities.
This spirit of cooperation was reflected in a key step taken during my visit: the approval by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine of the Agreement on the Establishment of the Country Office of the International Criminal Court in Ukraine. This will allow us to significantly enhance our existing field presence, increase missions across Ukraine and, crucially, allow us to work more closely with survivors, members of impacted communities, and civil society.
Since taking up my position as Prosecutor, I have repeatedly said that children must no longer be the forgotten victims of conflict. My mission to Ukraine has underlined this imperative. In southern Ukraine, two kilometres from the frontlines, I visited a care home for children. The drawings pinned on the wall and the cupboards full of clothes spoke to a context of love and support that was once there. But this home was empty, a result of alleged deportation of children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation or their unlawful transfer to other parts of the temporarily occupied territories. As I noted to the United Nations Security Council last September, these alleged acts are being investigated by my Office as a priority. Children cannot be treated as the spoils of war.
These allegations, and the lived experiences of so many in Ukraine, reflect a deeply challenging, often tragic, context. But during my visit it was also clear that this darkness has allowed us to see new ways of coming together, new ways of building partnerships towards justice.
This was the common message across all actors at the United for Justice Conference in Lviv which I was pleased to attend. It is unprecedented that as conflict takes place, literally as bombs fall, such a groundswell of collective work is being undertaken to ensure that the law is felt on the frontlines. Concrete action was taken at the conference, with the establishment of the Ukraine Accountability Dialogue Group to increase information-sharing and awareness across all relevant actors. My Office was also pleased to take part in a meeting of the joint investigation team (JIT) on alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine.
I underlined to those present that the situation in Ukraine must also set a new standard for concerted action to achieve global accountability for international crimes. From Kharkiv to Khartoum, from Kyiv to Cox’s Bazar, survivors should feel this sense of collective urgency and benefit from the innovation we see we are now capable of.
While in Lviv, I was also pleased to meet with key counterparts including EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and Mr Merrick Garland, Attorney General of the United States. This moment requires us to come together, to find new ways to collaborate and share information if we are to deliver for those that have suffered injustice.
My Office remains committed to continue to work with all partners, across civil society, national authorities, and international organisations, so that we can deliver tangible results and demonstrate the relevance of the rule of law in real-time. I will also yet again reach out to the authorities of the Russian Federation and seek their cooperation with my Office.
I wish to express my sincere thanks to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine and to all representatives of relevant ministries and agencies who dedicated time to meet with me during this visit despite the exceptionally difficult circumstances currently faced by all in Ukraine.