Speech by Catherine Colonna, minister for Europe and foreign affairs at the UN security Council (Sept. 22, 2022)


I will now make a statement in my capacity as France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

Prime Minister,
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with the deepest concern that I address this Security Council meeting devoted to Ukraine, and more specifically, the crimes committed there.
The war of aggression that Russia alone decided to wage against Ukraine, a sovereign state whose only mistake was its desire to exist in freedom, flagrantly violates the basic norms of our shared charter, the Charter of the United Nations. The non-use of force, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for other nations’ sovereignty and territorial integrity are principles that all of us around this Council table have all embraced. Each and every one of them has been openly violated.

The war that began on February 24 has been accompanied by abuses and the destruction of civilian targets. There must be accountability for the many violations of the rules of war and other acts. Unspeakable crimes have been committed in Bucha, Chernihiv and so many other places. The liberation of Izium led to the discovery of further atrocities carried out by torturers.
So, France’s message today is simple: justice must be our shared priority. There will be no peace without justice.

Justice is obviously crucial for the victims, who are entitled to recognition and reparations for their suffering. For all of the suffering that each victim has experienced.

Justice is also an international security imperative, and I say this to all those who think that this war is simply yet another conflict. If everything is permitted here, that will hold true all the more elsewhere, making wars of aggression even more likely.

And lastly, justice is a political imperative. We must ensure – we will ensure – that individuals are held accountable for their crimes, whether they committed them, ordered them or planned them. But it is the very idea that such crimes, such attacks on our shared humanity, are possible that we must fight with our words and actions.

A framework has been established for this purpose – a professional, specialized judicial system. At its apex is the International Criminal Court. Forty-three nations including France have already referred this matter to the ICC. It is the first time that so many nations have done so, and it reflects the importance of what we collectively believe is at stake. As you know, the Court will work together with Ukrainian and other relevant judicial authorities, including those in France and in other countries represented here today.

In light of this, there must be justice. France is therefore working with many other partners to strengthen the ability of all of these judicial authorities to collect evidence and reliable information.

That is why France has taken concrete action. Last April, as soon as information surfaced about the crimes that were committed in Bucha, we sent two teams of investigators to Ukraine. Over the course of three months, they helped the Ukrainian judicial authorities to meticulously and patiently establish the facts. Additionally, we donated a mobile DNA-analysis laboratory. Now that the world has learned of the new atrocities committed in Izium, we have decided to send a new support mission to assist the investigators on the ground. Because where Russia employs disinformation and propaganda, justice must be grounded in facts.

Of course, our support extends to the International Criminal Court. This support takes the form of both funding and personnel, who have been made available to assist the ICC magistrates and investigators, with due deference for the court’s independence.

Lastly, our support extends to all of the judicial authorities that need to cooperate effectively with one another. To this end, the Eurojust legal framework was amended under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union in order to allow the International Criminal Court to take part in joint investigation teams that comprise judicial authorities from multiple countries, including Ukraine.

The actions we are taking have meaning. It is not only a matter of combating impunity but also defending the integrity of our international order.

The fact that Russia chose to go to war under false pretexts is deeply shocking, as is its gross manipulation of a concept as weighty as genocide, which constitutes the “crime of crimes” and which served as grounds for creating an international criminal justice system at the end of World War II. The International Criminal Court itself has pointed out the spuriousness of this false statement.
This same manipulation is at work when mention is made of referendums in territories that were taken by force and subjected to terror. This is likewise true in instances where certain individuals threaten us with the use of all possible means when we are the ones, alongside others, who refuse to take part in any form of escalation.

Faced with those who deprive words of their meaning, it is the mission, the obligation and the task of those of us seated around this Council table to restore the meaning of things.

I would like to conclude with a quote from a Russian author. “We have to condemn publicly the very idea that some people have the right to repress others. In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future.” When Solzhenitsyn wrote these lines, he was referring to the decades of crimes committed by the U.S.S.R. on its own territory. Unfortunately, not a word need be changed to describe the crimes that Russia is currently committing beyond its borders.

The ICC is investigating evidence that, according to its prosecutor, may be proof of war crimes and crimes against humanity. We will learn of his conclusions later on, but today, what we can – and must – say is that those responsible will be found, charged and, ultimately, judged. The wait may seem long for the victims and their families but they should rest assured that the perpetrators will not go unpunished. We owe it to them. Not only do we owe it to them but our very security is at stake, as are the universal principles that bind us together.

Thank you very much. I will now resume my duties as the Council Chair and give the floor to his Excellency, Jonas Gahr Støre, the Prime Minister of Norway.