At the Bucha summit convened by his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, President Alar Karis has said that in regard to Russia’s responsibility for crimes committed on Ukrainian soil, not only do the victims of those crimes have names, but so do those who perpetrated them and who will be brought to justice. “We can never bring back those who have been killed, but we are obliged to seek justice for them and to give hope to the many victims who have suffered in this war,” the Estonian head of state remarked.
In his address, President Karis said that the first images that emerged from the liberated town of Bucha a year ago shocked the world. “We were horrified by the news of mass graves and by the sight of bodies in the streets, some of them with their hands tied behind their backs,” he stated. “And yet this was only the beginning: we have heard more and more reports of devastation being wrought upon and people being murdered in Mariupol, Izium, Irpin, Kharkiv, Kherson and elsewhere. The wounds inflicted by these war criminals will not begin to heal until justice has been served. We will never forget their unspeakable cruelty.”
President Karis added that the warrants for the arrest of Putin and Lvova-Belova issued by the International Criminal Court give hope that justice will prevail. “Those warrants are a mark against impunity,” he declared. “They are indicative of the enormous scope of the war crimes that have been committed by the Russian forces and those under their authority, for which Putin is ultimately responsible. Those warrants are just the first step in bringing the Russian leadership to justice for their barbarous acts and crimes of aggression.”
The Estonian head of state noted in his address that Russia had flagrantly breached the underlying principles of international order – the UN Charter, international humanitarian law and human rights – and that it was continuing to ignore the General Assembly’s calls to cease its aggression.
President Karis drew attention to the fact that Russia’s violence in Ukraine had gone far beyond the deportation of children and the crimes committed in Bucha. “The atrocities perpetrated by the Soviet Union in World War II went unpunished,” he noted. “Only by eliminating impunity can we help to prevent such crimes from being committed again.”
The Estonian head of state noted that the International Criminal Court does not have the jurisdiction to try Russia’s crimes of aggression in Ukraine, which is why Estonia supports the Ukrainians in seeking the establishment of a special international tribunal for the investigation and prosecution of the crimes of aggression committed by Russia in Ukraine. “We are duty-bound to find a solution that will not allow the Russian leadership to hide behind personal impunity,” he said. “A special international tribunal with broad-ranging supra-regional UN involvement would provide the required legitimacy. We know from history what aggression is, and we understand why we must remain united to ensure that responsibility is taken for crimes of aggression.”
Estonia signed its name to the declaration adopted at the close of the summit condemning the worst international crimes committed on Ukrainian territory and stressing the need for the fair, thorough and independent investigation of all of the crimes committed on Ukrainian territory.