Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting Co-Hosted by the U.S., Albania, and UK on the Commission of Inquiry Report on Ukraine

John Kelley
Political Minister Counselor
New York, New York
October 27, 2023


And thank you, Commissioners, for your briefing today to the Council, and for your comprehensive and independent reporting. Your efforts to investigate violations and abuses of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law, and related crimes in the context of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine are absolutely critical.

Colleagues, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is not only a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, it is a direct threat to international peace and security, and it has had dire human rights and humanitarian implications.

The Commission’s work to expose atrocities and abuses committed in Russia’s war is essential to ensuring accountability for thousands of victims. This Commission’s detailed reporting not only informs this Council’s understanding of the brutality of President Putin’s war, it will also help pave the way toward accountability, justice, and a safer world.

While the Commission’s reporting can be devastating to read, it is essential for the international community to understanding what is taking place. The Commission’s detailed accounting of attacks on medical facilities, torture, gender-based violence, and forced deportations, paints an appalling picture. It should compel us all to resolutely condemn Russia’s behavior.

As you’ve noted this afternoon, Commissioners, the Commission’s report released last week noted in horrifying detail some of the abuses committed against children and the general culture of fear in camps in Russia-occupied Crimea. I was particularly impacted reading about a 16-year-old girl who reported a teacher hit her and said, “I can put you in a foster family and your mother wouldn’t find you; you would be homeless and beg for food.”

Russian authorities’ use of torture has been widespread and systematic. The recent report notes Russian perpetrators used torture during interrogations. One victim was quoted as stating: “It was so painful … I thought I would die there. It was lasting for two hours. I kept saying ‘Boys, I don’t know why you are doing that; I don’t know anything.’”

Colleagues, Russia’s war against Ukraine is an assault on the very purposes and principles of the United Nations. We must all respond. We must all demand accountability for Russia’s flagrant violations of international law, including the UN Charter.

The United States strongly supports pathways to justice and accountability for atrocities committed in Ukraine and against the Ukrainian people, and we will continue to support Ukraine’s capacity to investigate and prosecute atrocities, while also supporting efforts in other national courts and international institutions.

We cannot allow for impunity, and we must make clear our commitment to upholding international law. We once again call on President Putin to immediately end the war he needlessly started and withdraw Russia’s forces from Ukraine.

And with that, I thank you, Chair.