Allow me to thank Albania for convening a high-level open debate on the topic of “strengthening accountability and justice for serious violations of international law”. I thank the distinguished briefers [H.E Judge Joan Donoghue, president of the ICJ, H.E Ms. Michelle Bachelet UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Mr Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford] for their insightful interventions. Estonia aligns with the statements by the European Union and the Group of Friends of Accountability following the Aggression against Ukraine.
It is of utmost importance that the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole would not go unpunished. Such grave crimes threaten the peace, security and well-being of the world’s populations. Impunity leads to a distorted understanding of right and wrong and the commission of new crimes.
The atrocity crimes committed by the Soviet Union during the Second World War were left unpunished, as the winners of the war were not judged. We are seeing the effects and consequences of this today, as Russia is praising the heroic history of the Soviet Union and is trying to restore it. New generations have been raised by this myth and they feel no guilt for the crimes committed by Stalin.
We regret that Russia is holding the Security Council hostage with its veto power and it has not been possible to determine and condemn the full-scale aggression of Russian Federation against Ukraine in blatant violation of the UN Charter. Although I am glad that like-minded countries are using this arena to confront Russia’s disinformation and lies.
With regard to vetoes, we need to step up our efforts of refraining the right to use veto, especially in cases of mass atrocity crimes. We reiterate our strong support to the French-Mexican initiative and the ACT Code of Conduct. We also welcome the recent unanimous adoption of the GA resolution, according to which every use of veto has to be explained to the General Assembly.
We urge Russia to comply with the 16 March order of the ICJ which is binding under international law, and to immediately suspend its military operations in the territory of Ukraine.
Estonia supports all efforts to ensure that there are independent and effective investigations into crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine, and to ensure justice and accountability. Our common duty is to bring perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide to justice. We support meaningful progress this autumn here in New York regarding the draft articles on crimes against humanity drawn up by the International Law Commission.
The ICC plays a particular role over atrocity crimes and in bringing justice to victims. Estonia was among the countries that referred the situation in Ukraine to the ICC. We appreciate that the Prosecutor has expeditiously launched the investigation.
Criminal proceedings have been initiated in Estonia by virtue of universal jurisdiction within which evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine is collected. Estonia has also joined the joint investigative team (JIT) on alleged core international crimes committed in Ukraine, which has been set up with the support of Eurojust to facilitate investigations and prosecutions in the concerned states as well as those that could be taken forward before the ICC. On 12 May Estonia, in cooperation with the ICC and Trust Fund for Victims, organized an online seminar to mark the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute with particular attention to victims of atrocity crimes in the ICC proceedings and the role and activities of the Trust Fund for Victims.
We call on the members of the Security Council and the international community to continue to strive towards putting the victims first, and to cooperate with all international accountability mechanisms to achieve justice and reparations.