Durbin Questions Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco During Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On Accountability For Russian War Crimes And Crimes Against Humanity In Ukraine

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Holding Russian Kleptocrats and Human Rights Violators Accountable for their Crimes Against Ukraine.”  Durbin first asked Monaco about U.S. support for the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into the atrocities committed in Ukraine.  Durbin and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently led a bipartisan letter to President Biden urging his Administration to support the investigation by implementing bipartisan legislation enacted in the last Congress.  This letter came after the March 17 news that the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.

“Senior administration officials, including Attorney General Garland, have repeatedly expressed support for the ICC’s Ukraine investigation.  Congress has made its support clear as well by passing provisions last Congress —on a bipartisan basis—that provide the executive branch with greater flexibility to provide evidence and other forms of support to the Court in relation to Ukraine.   Yet I understand that the Administration still has not provided this assistance because of untenable objections by the Department of Defense.  As I hear the reports of Russian soldiers beheading Ukrainian prisoners and raping a four year old girl, I am stunned to hear that this is still being debated in Washington.  There is simply no debate about the right and moral course of action at this moment.  Are the Biden Administration and all the departments of this government united in this effort?” Durbin asked.   

Monaco responded that there is a united effort to ensure accountability for the atrocities being committed in Ukraine, and she is grateful for the changes in the law that further enable accountability efforts.  She noted that the discussions are ongoing on how to best use the United States’ authority to assist the ICC.  

Durbin and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the bipartisan Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act – which updates the current war crimes statute to enable prosecution of war criminals in the United States regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or victim.  The bill was signed into law by President Biden.

“We’ve tried to take steps to cooperate [with the international court] by providing evidence and support with the ICC without compromising our position.  Do you have any doubt in your mind that we have sufficient legal protection to proceed with cooperating at this level?” Durbin asked. 

Monaco responded that she doesn’t have any doubt.  She elaborated by saying, “this is why we’re very grateful for the work we were able to do with you and your staff to formulate the statute that you referenced that Congress passed late last year to provide this narrow ability for us as a government and to provide assistance to the ICC.” 

Durbin responded, “So you’ve established in your answers to these two questions.  First, that this Administration is bound and determined to help in any effort to prosecute war crimes against Vladimir Putin.  And second, that doing so, will not compromise our government or our military or any branch of our government Is that a fair conclusion?” 

Monaco responded, “that is a fair conclusion.” 

Yesterday, Durbin and Graham met with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin to receive an update on reports of war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

During the hearing, Durbin also spoke about Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian dissident, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Monday by Russia for speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Last year, the Senate passed Durbin and Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) bipartisan resolution honoring Kara-Murza.  The resolution also pays tribute to his advocacy for human rights in Russia and support for the anti-war movement.   Durbin met with Kara-Murza March 2022.  

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here for TV Stations.