President of Ukraine

Ukraine – the Netherlands Declaration on accountability for Ukraine

4 May 2023 - 18:51

We, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime-Minister Mark Rutte, have come together in The Hague on the 4th of May, the day the Kingdom of the Netherlands commemorates its victims during the Second World War or anywhere else in the world in situations of war or during peacekeeping operations since then. Here in The Hague, the city of Peace and Justice, we stress that there can be no peace without justice for the violations of international law, nor for the terrible crimes committed after the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

The aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation is a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations and a grave breach of international peace and security, which threatens the rules-based international order, violates human rights and undermines democratic values. We hold Russia accountable for these violations.

Furthermore, Russian officials and other individuals who planned, prepared, initiated, ordered and/or executed international crimes must be held to account in a court of law. Our aim is to exclude impunity for these crimes, which include forcible deportations and intentional attempts to erase Ukrainian identity and ethnicity, including culture and language.

Today we therefore reaffirm our commitment to pursuing accountability for all international crimes and other violations of international law, committed in or against Ukraine and throughout the world

In this context, we recall the Political Declaration of the Ministerial Ukraine Accountability Conference of 14 July 2022 in The Hague that marks our commitment to upholding international law. We also recall resolution A/RES/ES-11/6 of the General Assembly of the United Nations of 23 February 2023, that deplores the dire consequences of the Russian aggression for Ukrainian citizens, including the continuous attacks against critical infrastructure across Ukraine. In this resolution the international community expresses its grave concern at the high number of civilian casualties, including women and children,  at the high number of internally displaced persons and refugees in need of humanitarian assistance, and at violations and abuses committed against children. The international community also emphasizes the need to ensure accountability for the most serious international crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine, through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the national or international level, and to ensure justice for all victims and the prevention of future crimes. The road toward justice for Ukraine will be long, but important first steps have already been taken by Ukraine and its international partners.

We welcome the Order of 16 March 2022 of the International Court of Justice on provisional measures in the Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Ukraine v. Russian Federation). This Order stipulates that the Russian Federation must immediately suspend its military operations. We call on the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally comply with this binding order.

We are strongly committed to President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula that aims to not only bring just and sustainable peace to Ukraine, but also to restore rules-based security for the whole world. Item 7 of the ten-points Peace Formula relates to the restoration of justice, which is a sine qua non for achieving peace. The Kingdom of the Netherlands has committed to a leading role on item 7 and has been working closely with Ukraine in this regard.

We commit to building a comprehensive system of accountability for Ukraine. This ‘web of accountability’ as it was referred to during the United for Justice conference in Lviv in March 2023 will consist of the following tiers:

1. The investigation and prosecution of international crimes at the national and international level;

2. The establishment of an ad-hoc special tribunal for the crime of aggression;

3. Ensuring full reparation of harm suffered by Ukraine and the Ukrainian people through the establishment of the international compensation mechanism.

To ensure an effective coordination of the international efforts to support Ukraine on all these tracks, we commit to the work of the Strategic Dialogue Group on Accountability for Ukraine (“the Dialogue Group”), with the objective of promoting dialogue across the various national, European and international accountability and documentation initiatives relevant to the situation in Ukraine, as well as the identification of opportunities for enhanced coherence of action in these efforts.

The fight against impunity concerns all. We therefore remain committed to engage with all interested international partners to join us to combat impunity in Ukraine and throughout the world.

The investigation and prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide

We commend the efforts of the International Criminal Court following the referral by fourty-three states of the situation in Ukraine to its Prosecutor. In particular, we welcome the arrest-warrants issued by the ICC on 17 March 2023 against President Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. We call on all States Parties to the Rome Statute to take all necessary actions to execute these arrest warrants, as well as any forthcoming arrest warrants by the ICC in relation to international crimes committed in Ukraine.

We recall the strong support for the ICC that was expressed by more than thirty states during the London conference of Ministers of Justice on 20 March 2023. We will continue to support the ICC in its endeavours, in particular – in the case of the Netherlands – by sending two more forensic missions to Ukraine in 2023 under the flag of the ICC. 

We recognize that the vast majority of international crimes will need to be prosecuted by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General and his office and the enormous burden this will place on the Ukrainian Justice system. We commend the work carried out to date by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine and Ukraine’s entire law enforcement and justice system investigating and prosecuting international crimes. The Netherlands stands ready to continue its financial and practical support. We applaud all efforts made by the international community to support the Ukrainian justice sector, including by establishing the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA).

We strongly condemn sexual and gender-based crimes in all their forms, including as a weapon of war, and reaffirm their absolute prohibition in times of war and peace, and underline the need for a victim-centered approach, specialized support and gender-sensitive, child-sensitive and trauma-sensitive treatment that takes into account individual needs of all victims.

The establishment of an ad-hoc special tribunal for the crime of aggression

We recall UN General Assembly resolution ES-11/1 (2022) of 2 March 2022, which deplored in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2(4) of the Charter. And, in recognition of the fact that no current international mechanism can exercise jurisdiction with respect to the crime of aggression committed in Ukraine, we commit to the establishment of an ad-hoc special tribunal for the prosecution and adjudication of this crime, with the involvement of the international community. We welcome the commitment of thirty-six states, as of today, which have joined the Core Group on the Special Tribunal for the Russian crime of aggression to deliver on a concrete proposal that will ensure legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness of such a tribunal. We call on other states to join this endeavour to ensure justice and exclude impunity.

We strongly believe that The Hague as the city of Peace and Justice is the place to host the special tribunal.

We strongly welcome the establishment of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression (ICPA) at Eurojust in The Hague and we commend the member states of the Joint Investigation Team, as well as the European Commission and Eurojust, for their efforts. We see the ICPA as the first step towards justice for the crime of aggression committed by the Russian Federation and its leadership.

The establishment of a register of damage and an international compensation mechanism

We recall UN General Assembly resolution ES-11/ 5 of 14 November 2022, which recognized that the Russian Federation must bear the legal consequences of all of its internationally wrongful acts, including making reparation for the injury, including any damage, caused by such acts, and therefore also recognized the need for the establishment of an international mechanism for reparation for damage, loss or injury, arising from the internationally wrongful acts of the Russian Federation in or against Ukraine.

We thank the Council of Europe for its commitment to establish a Register of Damage caused by the Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine in the form of an Enlarged Partial Agreement, to be confirmed at the upcoming Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe in Reykjavik.

We confirm that such a Register of Damage will be hosted in The Hague.

We emphasize that the Register is the first step towards the establishment of an international compensation mechanism that is required to ensure full and effective reparation by the Russian Federation for all damage, loss or injury caused by its aggression against Ukraine, as recognized by UN General Assembly resolution ES-11/5 of 14 November 2022. This duty under international law is not conditional upon Russia’s consent.