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U.S. Helsinki Commissioners Issue Statement in Nuremberg: Russia Must be Brought to Justice

February 20, 2024
Nuremberg, Germany
Court Room 600

NUREMBERG, GERMANYU.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02), Helsinki Commissioners Senator Thom Tillis (NC) and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (IN-05), Congressman Lloyd Doggett (TX-37) and Congressman Andy Harris (MD-01) led a field hearing on February 20 to examine how best to bring Russian perpetrators to account for their war crimes in Ukraine. The hearing was held in the historic Courtroom 600, the site of the groundbreaking Nuremberg Trials, which took place after World War II to hold Nazi officials accountable for their crimes.

“In Nuremberg, the promise was ‘never again.’ And yet, today, in 2024, Russian authorities are committing the very crimes that the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg was created to address: the crime of aggression, war crimes, including the kidnapping of children, and crimes against humanity. We must bring to justice all perpetrators of the heinous crimes being committed in Ukraine today by Russian authorities – all the way up to Putin.

“For two years, the Russian military has launched wanton attacks on Ukrainian civilians, residential buildings, schools, hospitals, synagogues and churches, and critical infrastructure. The Ukrainian government has documented close to 20,000 cases of children taken to Russia or Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine for forced russification and assimilation, which is a war crime that could amount to genocide.

“At the same time, this war has become the most documented in history. Every day people are using their cell phones to photograph crime scenes. Drones are being used to access and record places that people cannot reach.  Open-source intelligence and social media are being mined for information and artificial intelligence is being used to identify perpetrators. This evidence will be crucial in holding Russian authorities to account. Nevertheless, in order to hold accountable those responsible for these crimes, including the highest levels of the Russian government, Ukrainian and international judicial mechanisms must be used effectively, and new ones may need to be established.”

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, addressing the hearing in a video, said, “No war can be truly ended without bringing to justice those thugs responsible for sparking this war, killing, and torturing, deporting children and adults… When determination arises and justice prevails, the aggressor falls, and evil gets punished.  Action makes a difference.”

The hearing was opened with welcoming remarks from Professor Christoph Safferling, Director of the Nuremberg Academy; Mr. Marcus König, Lord Mayor of the City of Nuremberg; Tobias Winkler, Member of the Bundestag; Ms. Angelika Schlunck, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Justice of Germany (pre-recorded video); and Dr. Georg Eisenreich, Minister of Justice of Bavaria (prerecorded video).

Panelists included: Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine; Prof. Veronika Bílková, OSCE Moscow Mechanism Rapporteur, Head of the Department of International Law, Faculty of Law of the Charles University; Roman Avramenko, Director of Truth Hounds; Roksolana Burianenko, Program Manager, Ukrainian Archive, Mnemonic; Dr Gabija Grigaitė-Daugirdė, Deputy Minister of Justice, Lithuania; Professor Christoph Safferling, Director of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy; and Dr. Beth Van Schaack, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice.

Russia’s ongoing war crimes are having a devastating impact on Ukraine, and particularly on Ukrainian children, women, and innocent civilians.  As Ukraine and the international community work to bring the Russian Federation, its leadership, and other individual perpetrators to justice, there are lessons to be learned from the Nuremberg trials, which were the basis of a pioneering process that established much of the foundations of international criminal law which will be used to bring Russian perpetrators to justice for their crimes in Ukraine.

The event was held in cooperation with the International Nuremberg Principles Academy (Nuremberg Academy), which is a foundation established by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Free State of Bavaria, and the City of Nuremberg dedicated to the advancement of international criminal law and human rights.  The Commission on Security and Cooperation (also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission) was founded in 1976 as an independent U.S. government body mandated to monitor and encourage compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent OSCE documents by all participating States.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent commission of the U.S. Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy and economic, environmental and military cooperation in fifty-seven countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

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