Forty-four nations attending the “Restoring Justice for Ukraine” conference signed a declaration creating a tribunal to investigate Russian war crimes.

The nations condemned Russia’s full-scale Ukraine invasion as a violation of the international legal order and as a violation of a UN court decision on March 16, 2022, calling on the Kremlin to cease hostilities.

“The start of a full-scale war by Russia against Ukraine led to the death of tens of thousands of people, millions of people became internally displaced. Everyone here agrees that Russia must be held accountable. Russia must pay for these flagrant violations,” Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Gerdina Johanetta Bruins Slot said in opening remarks.

Foreign and justice ministers from 57 nations took part in the conference – which was co-hosted by the Netherlands, Ukraine and the European Commission in the Hague on Tuesday, April 2.

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Along with the national representatives, attendees included delegates from the International Criminal Court, the Council of Europe, the Register of Damage for Ukraine, Eurojust, the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine, the Ukraine Joint Investigation Team and various Ukrainian non-governmental organizations.

At Kyiv’s request, the Netherlands agreed to take the leading role in progressing four areas within point 7 entitled “Justice” of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposed 10-point peace plan.

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“Justice” addresses:

  • Support for Ukrainian investigations into and prosecution of international crimes at the national level.
  • Investigation and prosecution of international crimes at the international level, including the crime of aggression.
  • Reparations in respect of the harm Ukraine and its people suffered.
  • Facilitating international coordination, cooperation, and information-sharing.

The Netherlands’ government said that Ukraine has resisted unprecedented Russian aggression with attacks on civilian areas causing civilian casualties and the commission of war crimes such as torture, rape, and abduction in Russian-occupied areas.

The signers of the declaration agreed that these crimes must not go unpunished and that all victims must receive justice.

One aim of the conference was to assess the progress made in documenting and investigating these crimes.

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Several signatories committed to supporting increased joint efforts to ensure all violations of international law committed by Russia are fully investigated to punish the highest Russian military and political leadership for crimes. Their declaration acknowledges the role of those institutions already involved, including the International Criminal Court – which has issued an unprecedented arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin.

The declaration also reiterated the intention to freeze all Russian sovereign assets until it ceases its war against Ukraine and pays for the damage it’s caused, and, if necessary – to use those assets for the benefit of Ukraine.

In a speech to the conference, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, stated that in February 2022, at the start of the full-scale invasion, the idea of a special tribunal was received with skepticism, but the conference's final declaration showed that that has changed and that justice for Russia’s aggression and the outrages committed is now unavoidable.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addresses the conference. Photo: X/Twitter

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In a post on X/Twitter he said that Ukrainians need justice now, “not in a distant future.” He praised what he called the tangible results achieved so far, despite previously expressing concerns that the setting up of a Special Tribunal had made little practical progress. He summarized these achievements as :

  • The Register of Damage is now operational, allowing Ukrainians to request compensation for damage or destruction of residential property, and its scope will further expand.
  • Establishment of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression Against Ukraine (ICPA) has been established, and its prosecutors are currently investigating and preparing indictments for this crime.
  • The first decisions to use frozen Russian assets for Ukraine’s benefit have already been made, and this work must achieve more results this year.

As Kyiv Post previously reported, the initiation of the Register of Damages for Ukraine mechanism, designed to compensate for material losses arising from Russia's invasion is likely to see as many as 10 million requests eventually being lodged.

Underlining what she saw as the determination shown by Tuesday’s conference to give Ukraine the justice it deserves, the Netherlands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hanke Bruins Slot said in her post-forum press release:

“Impunity thrives on silence. Today we have spoken up. We have said in a single, clear, loud voice: We don’t accept impunity. Not in Ukraine. Nor anywhere else. We will continue to use that voice for as long as it takes. Until there is peace and justice for Ukraine and its people.”

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