Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 21, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President. Let me start by thanking you and your delegation for keeping a continued spotlight on accountability, and in particular your focus on holding those responsible who commit atrocities to account. I also want to thank UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Nderitu, Ms. Tsybulska, and Mr. Cohen for compelling, useful, and deeply disturbing briefings today. I think these presentations provide another sobering look at how disinformation and misuse of the Internet is fueling the horrific suffering that Russia’s brutal and illegal further invasion of Ukraine is causing the people of Ukraine. I think it’s clear, from what we’ve heard and what we know instinctively, that aggressors use hate speech and disinformation to foment mistrust, agitate division, and ultimately fuel their violence, as we are seeing Russia do as it wages its premeditated and unprovoked war against Ukraine.
Let me be clear: we strongly reject Russia’s continued efforts to distort history for its own political purposes. This Council must do the same. The General Assembly has already rejected Russia’s false narrative and its disinformation on Ukraine and on other neighboring countries, such as when it attempts to smear neighbors as “neo-fascists” and “neo-Nazis.” These lies are particularly egregious and harmful as they really detract from serious, critically important worldwide efforts to combat actual antisemitism and violent extremism.
We all must continue upholding peace and security, defending human rights, promoting the rule of law. This work must include condemning and combating real antisemitism in all its forms, as well as other forms of intolerance, discrimination, racism, and xenophobia. And we must uphold in this Council the UN Charter. We have a special obligation to do so and to respond to lies with truth, and we cannot allow the rule of law to be replaced by the use of force. This Council must be clear that any attempts to change the internationally recognized borders of sovereign states by the use of force are unlawful, irresponsible, and dangerous – a lesson drawn from the history of the Second World War.
Since Russia launched its illegal and unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine, credible reports from a broad range of sources of atrocities committed by Russia’s forces against civilians have grown with every passing day. Bucha, Mariupol, Kherson will go down in history as the sites of horrific atrocities and human suffering. There are multiple credible reports, as we’ve heard from our briefer, of Russia’s forces torturing and committing execution-style killings of people bound with their hands bound behind their back. And as we have discussed in this Council, there are also a multitude of reports of women and girls being raped, some publicly, children illegally taken away to Russia and put up for adoption. And we know that Russia’s forces continue to deny safe passage to civilians fleeing violence, as well as to humanitarian organizations trying to reach those in need.
Ukraine has suffered from Russia’s aggression since 2014. Before then, Ukraine was a country at peace. Sadly, the atrocities committed by Russia’s forces have only multiplied since its full-scale invasion in February. As you noted, Mr. President, Russia also continues to flagrantly disregard the International Court of Justice’s order of March 16th for Russia to suspend immediately its military operations in Ukraine.
We cannot stay silent. Fellow Council Members, we must seek and achieve justice for victims.
The European Democratic Resilience Initiative, which President Biden announced in March, will provide up to 320 million U.S. dollars in new funding to support societal resilience and defend human rights in Ukraine, and there will be a particular focus on accountability for war crimes and the other atrocities committed by Russia’s forces in Ukraine.
Similarly, the EU, the UK, and the United States have formed the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group to advise the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s War Crimes Unit on the collection, the preservation, and analysis of evidence of atrocities to support the pursuit of justice for survivors and victims. We are also supporting a broad range of international examinations of the mounting credible reports of atrocities in Ukraine, just to name a few, such as the examinations conducted by the International Criminal Court, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, and the experts missions under the Moscow Mechanism of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This effort includes supporting the establishment of the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry.
And I would note that just today, the Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland, is visiting Ukraine in order to see how, in addition, the United States can help Ukraine preserve and ensure accountability for the crimes being committed on its soil.
Let me end, Mr. President, by noting that some countries on this Council have called for the peaceful settlement of conflict in Ukraine, while ignoring that one country, Russia, started this conflict by illegally invading and attacking its neighbor. Russia alone bears responsibility for this war – Russia alone started this war, and Russia alone can end it. I say to our Russian friends: silence your guns now, withdraw your forces from Ukraine’s territory, speak truth, and embrace diplomacy. Thank you, Mr. President.