Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 14, 2022
Mr. President, fellow delegates, together with more than 50 co-sponsors of this resolution the United States reaffirms our commitment to international law, including the UN Charter, and to its principles on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. We have heard a lot during this debate, but I think it’s clear what the issue is before this august body.
The international community must hold Russia to account for its violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and for the resulting damages and abuses committed against the people of Ukraine. This resolution represents a critical step toward accountability. It highlights the importance of gathering evidence to support eventual claims for compensation from Russia on a non-criminal track for the injuries, the deaths, and the extensive damage to public and private property caused by Russia’s internationally wrongful acts in Ukraine.
The mounting costs, including the appalling human toll, of Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful invasion of its neighbor and fellow UN Member State are tremendous. To date, there have been thousands killed, millions more displaced, and an untold number disappeared. Reports are multiplying of atrocities and other abuses, including of forced deportation, the deliberate separation and kidnapping of children from their families and forced adoptions in Russia, torture, and the bombing of maternity hospitals.
Russia’s devastating strikes have been hitting cities and towns across Ukraine, with shells damaging or destroying residential areas and medical facilities around the country and causing significant major destruction to critical energy infrastructure as winter fast approaches. It is well within the authority of the General Assembly to adopt this resolution. Chapter IV of the UN Charter gives the General Assembly broad recommendatory authority on a vast array of issues. This recommendation to create a damages register is an important initial step toward the eventual establishment of a claims adjudication mechanism to assess the full scope of the huge toll this needless war is taking on Ukraine and its people.
My delegation wishes to reiterate that this is again a matter of justice, not geopolitical competition. The passage of this resolution underscores the United Nations’ strong message to would-be aggressors around the world that breaching international law, including the UN Charter will have consequences, and that the international community, all of us, will hold violators to account.
Compensation for the victims of aggression would serve then as a deterrent – a deterrent against future breaches of international peace and security. Secretary-General Guterres was clear when he said that Russia’s actions are “a violation of the principles of the UN Charter and international law.” This vote, therefore, is a vote for accountability and for the defense of the Charter. It is understandable and right for Ukraine to want a cataloguing of the mounting consequences, including the appalling human toll, of Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful invasion.
Ukraine will one day rebuild; that is not at question here. The point is the imperative – the imperative for us, the international community – to hold the perpetrator to account for this needless devastation. Accountability is an important component of any eventual settlement of this war. The passage of this resolution also serves as a deterrent against future breaches of international peace and security as well as helping reach reconciliation.
In conclusion, fellow delegates, Member States cannot sit on the sidelines when such fundamental principles of international law undergirding the international system are at stake. We all made a commitment to uphold the Charter when we joined the UN. Now this vote is an opportunity to demonstrate that commitment. Thank you.