I thank the briefers for their valuable and important remarks.
We currently see reports of widespread and blatant violations of international humanitarian, and human rights law being committed in Ukraine - particularly in areas controlled, or previously controlled, by Russian forces. Many of these violations may amount to war crimes.
Norway condemns Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. And we call on Russia to immediately end its relentless and brutal attacks on civilians.
Russia’s war, is in and of itself a violation of international law. The principles of the UN Charter are clear on the illegality of the acquisition of territory by force.
In March, in the Ukraine versus Russia case regarding allegation of Genocide, the International Court of Justice’s ordered Russia to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine. Russia must comply with this legally binding order. Yet the Russian Federation continues its aggression and disinformation, including about genocide taking place in parts of Ukraine.
The Russian leadership’s rhetoric is not only false, it is dangerous. Freedom of speech explicitly does not extend to the advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. And for good reason.
Incitement of violence is recognised as a warning sign - and as this Council has seen all too often - messaging that spreads hostility and hatred can trigger violence that may lead to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide.
We need to prevent, and counter, all forms of incitement to violence. Including through dialogue, sharing knowledge, education, and objective reporting. We must speak up against information that is false and deliberately created to harm. Disinformation and war propaganda reinforces insecurity, mistrust, hostility – and ultimately undermines the basis for future dialogue and peace.
In countering this, we have no better ally than independent journalism and a free press. The press plays an essential role in providing real-time documentation of violations of international humanitarian law, as well as human rights violations and abuses.
When the time for accountability comes – this reporting will make it even more difficult for Russian leaders to claim ignorance of atrocity crimes being committed at their direction.
It is essential, and required, under international humanitarian law that journalists and other media workers are protected. Yet, the Committee to Protect Journalists has confirmed that at least twelve journalists have died while covering the war in Ukraine. And in Russia, scores of reporters have fled the country or are facing prosecution as the country continues to crack down on independent media.
We recall the Security Council’s authority to refer cases to the International Criminal Court.
There are ample indications of war crimes being committed. These crimes cannot be forgotten. Individuals at all levels must be held to account. There must be accountability for the sake of the victims, the people of Ukraine, and all countries with powerful neighbours.
We must defend our international order, where relationships between states are determined by international law, not by power.