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August 07, 2023

Lawyers critical to work in Ukraine, Attorney General Garland tells ABA

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, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Aug. 7 at the 2023 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Denver.

In remarks before the ABA House of Delegates, 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.

The attorney general commended efforts by Ukrainian officials to uphold the rule of law. “In the midst of a war, prosecutors … have risked their lives to record what is happening to their people,” collecting and cataloging evidence from blast sites, exhuming mass graves and carefully studying the bodies of victims, he 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.

The attorney general said 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.”