DENVER, Aug. 7, 2023 – U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates Monday at the association’s Annual Meeting in Denver, stating that lawyers will be critical to upholding the rule of law, helping to rebuild Ukraine and addressing the needs of Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s invasion of that country.
Garland outlined the range of atrocities that Russia has committed over the 17-month war. “The world has watched as invading Russian forces have committed atrocities on the largest scale in any European armed conflict” since World War II, he said.
He encouraged the ABA to support a newly created Victim-Witness Coordination Centre in Ukraine, for which the Justice Department is assisting with training and other support.
“Addressing the needs of millions of Ukrainians displaced or otherwise harmed by Russia’s invasion will require years and Herculean effort,” Garland said. “The new center would benefit greatly from help from nongovernmental organizations, particularly in the painstaking work of documenting harms suffered, assessing damages and securing reparations.
“Lawyers will be critical to this work,” Garland said.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice and State Department are working alongside Ukrainian officials and have launched major initiatives to support the country, including freezing and seizing assets, executing arrests and prosecuting individuals who enable the Russian government to continue the war.
“War criminals will find no refuge in America,” Garland said.
Garland became emotional when discussing how his family escaped persecution in Europe during World War I and II and found refuge in the protection of the law in the United States. He said that the people directly responsible for some of his relatives’ deaths were never brought to justice and that the Justice Department is moving swiftly “to gather evidence and build cases so that we are ready when the time comes to hold the perpetrators accountable.
“The families of the victims of the current atrocities in Ukraine deserve to know what happened to their loved ones,” Garland said. “They deserve justice.”
The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.