Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Ukraine and Accountability for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

Witnesses include representatives from the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “From Nuremberg to Ukraine: Accountability for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.”

Durbin and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, previously introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, legislation that updates the current war crimes statute to enable prosecution of foreign war criminals in the United States regardless of the location or targets of their atrocities. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for war crimes discovered years after they occur. 

Key Quotes: 

“On September 14, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walked into what can only be described as Hell on Earth.  It was just days after Ukrainian forces recaptured the city of Izyum and President Zelensky wanted to assess the damage himself. The once picturesque riverside city was now unrecognizable. Mass graves were filled with hundreds of unidentified bodies, including children. Bodies with crushed skulls. Victims’ hands tied behind their backs. Faces mutilated beyond recognition. Many showing signs of torture… We must not look away. We must bear witness to these heinous acts—which is why we have images of these crimes around the hearing room today.”

“I met with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin last week. He told me they have documented nearly 35,000 war crimes, like the ones you see in these images, since Russia’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine… We must uphold our nation’s legacy from Nuremberg – where the United States led the prosecutions of Nazi war criminals – by bringing today’s perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice.” 

“But it is also up to us in this body to ensure that our laws here at home do not enable impunity… Over the years, we had a number of bipartisan accomplishments—including theGenocide Accountability Act, which granted the Justice Department power to prosecute war criminals on American soil who had participated in genocide, and the Child Soldiers Accountability Act, which made it illegal under U.S. law to recruit or use child soldiers.” 

“But our work is far from finished: A number of shameful loopholes in our laws continue to enable war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity to find safe haven here in the United States. That may sound unbelievable but in 2006, Marko Boskic, a man who participated in the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia, was discovered living in Massachusetts.”

“Do you want to risk reading a headline ten years from now about a Russian who murdered civilians in Ukraine enjoying impunity in America? I sure don’t.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.