Dutch FM calls for "accountability strategy" at Ukraine Conference
Minister Wopke Hoekstra of Foreign Affairs opened the Ukraine Accountability Conference in The Hague on Thursday. The conference aims to ensure that those committing war crimes in Ukraine are brought to justice. Hoekstra said he hopes the international community's fast response to enforce this justice will become a blueprint for the future. "Just like a climate strategy and a Covid strategy, we need an accountability strategy," he said in his opening speech.
Hoekstra quoted pathologist Bela Kubat after they examined six bodies in makeshift graves outside a shelled house in Borodyanka. The pathologist spoke of a "higher ethical standard that we as humanity agreed upon" not to attack civilians or bomb their homes. And that those who do so will be held accountable.
According to Hoekstra, "this shared conviction has enormous power." It led to the unique investigation into war crimes in Ukraine, he said. "Never before did the ICC send a team of this magnitude. Never before did such an investigation take place so soon. Never before did we collaborate so intensively." He hopes this will lead to an accountability strategy. "A strategy driven by the universal belief that all of us are protected by law. Ensuring that all roads lead to justice. Now and in the future," he said.
The Ukraine Accountability Conference was organized by the Netherlands, the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the European Commission.
Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, spoke of “devastation” in Ukraine. “Not only the physical loss but the destruction of people’s hopes and futures,” he said at the conference, according to BNR. But there is “hope” as the conflict has also shown the need for a revival of international law.
Khan thinks the war in Ukraine is leading to a “growth spurt of international law.” The war has “woken up” the international community. “For too long, we struggled with the ailment of seeing justice as something that we could take if we wanted or ignore when it came to that. Now is the time to stick to the law and use the law as an anchor for stability and security. That is what this moment requires of us.”
Ukrainian Minister Dmytro Kuleba of Foreign Affairs, who joined the conference via video link because of a leg injury, called for those present to commit themselves to a special tribunal for the crimes committed in Ukraine. “Unfortunately, there is currently no international court or tribunal that is able to force Russian political and military leaders to stop committing war crimes in Ukraine,” Kuleba said.
The Ukrainian Minister said he would work with the ICC, but there is a “gaping hole in the architecture of the international justice system” that could be closed with a special court. Because neither Ukraine nor Russia officially recognizes the ICC, the court cannot act against all crimes.