Opening speech: Volodymyr Zelensky

Wednesday 16 November 2022

At the IBA Annual Conference 2022 the President of Ukraine highlighted the importance of the role of lawyers in bringing Russia to justice for its crimes against the people of Ukraine.

Ladies and gentlemen. Dear defenders of law and human rights. Greetings to all of you participants of the International Bar Association, meeting from all over, and thank you for your attention to the Ukrainian struggle for freedom.

This year, your Association celebrated its 75th anniversary. It was on 17 February, a week before the terrible Russian invasion of Ukraine, an act which undermines the long-term achievements in the protection of international law and order and peace. This ongoing war in Ukraine has long had echoes in all other parts of the world. Somewhere there are waves of refugees. Somewhere there is a threat of large-scale famine due to the artificial food crisis provoked by Russia. Somewhere there is a brutal cost of living crisis that drives millions of people into poverty and destroys the wellbeing of the middle class, even where Russia cannot reach with its aggression. And somewhere the cruellest things of all that are possible are happening in Ukraine. Artillery shelling of our cities: hundreds of Ukrainian cities were destroyed, dozens completely burned. Constant missile and bomb terror from Iranian drones that Russia is using against our infrastructure. Millions of Ukrainians suffered losses from this war unleashed by Russia – they lost loved ones, friends, their homes. At least tens of thousands of Ukrainians have already been killed.

Of course, we are doing everything to protect our people and oust the Russian invaders from Ukrainian land as soon as possible. We are doing everything to restore freedom to all Ukrainians in all parts of our country. I believe that we will do it thanks to our heroic defenders, and thanks to everyone who fights and works for the victory of Ukraine. Very powerful assistance is provided by our partners and I am especially grateful to the United States for its leadership in the global coalition formed this year to protect Ukraine and freedom.

I would like to draw attention to the fact that lawyers will put an end to this war

But I would like to draw attention to the fact lawyers will put an end to this war – after the military, after politicians. Exactly lawyers. Lawyers will ensure that all those guilty of terror are brought to justice and that all damages caused by Russia are compensated at the expense of the assets of the aggressor state itself.

It is this kind of justice that should be the end of the evil that Russia has brought. Behind each of the 4,500 Russian missiles there are savages who are responsible for the deaths and losses that those missiles have caused. Behind every mass burial of the victims of Russian torturers, there are savages who are guilty of these murders. Behind every manifestation of Russian aggression there are those who planned it, organised it, justified it and prevented its termination.

We have already started working to establish to create a special tribunal to punish Russia for the crime of aggression against Ukraine. This tribunal will happen. We are already cooperating with the US, with European countries and with the International Criminal Court to punish all Russian murderers and torturers. We have already started the creation of the special compensation mechanism that will ensure the confiscation and channelling of Russian assets to compensate for the losses caused by this war. And I invite you to join this work. This is an opportunity for each of you to help people who have become innocent victims of the war as specifically as possible. This is a chance for each of you to become part of the multi-generational global effort to establish the strength of international law. Perhaps, right now in this room among you, there are those whose names will soon be inscribed in the world history of protecting freedom and law and order – for all people, for all countries, at all times.

I thank you for the already-started cooperation of your Association with the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General, and for your initiatives that help us fight for justice for all victims of this Russian terrorist war. I ask you to continue to be active together. Together we can prove that the law is effective and that the law works, that every war crime will be investigated and every war criminal will be brought to justice.

Thank you for your attention. Long live freedom and may justice prevail. Glory to Ukraine.

The filmed speech can be viewed in full here.