Commending U.S. Policy on ICC’s Ukraine Investigation

WASHINGTON – With reports that President Biden has authorized the U.S. government to share evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine with the International Criminal Court (ICC), Human Rights First praised the long-awaited shift in U.S. policy. It is a significant step toward supporting justice for the victims of Russian atrocities in Ukraine, and the administration should take the next step of more consistent, broad U.S. support for accountability institutions.  

“Ukrainians in civil society and government alike are counting on the ICC to help hold Russian officials to account for their brutality,” said Mike Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “Human Rights First commends the Biden administration for setting aside an old policy position that stood in the way of U.S. backing for the court, not just in Ukraine but other crises where it has an indispensable role to play in challenging impunity.”  

After opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine last year, the ICC prosecutor in March 2023 obtained arrest warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of his aides for the alleged war crime of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children into Russia. 

A longstanding U.S. objection to a key feature of the ICC’s jurisdiction – its ability to investigate the nationals of countries that are not members of the ICC for their actions in countries that are – had until now prevented the United States from providing more than rhetorical support to the court’s investigation in Ukraine. 

Human Rights First has been advocating for U.S. policy change on this issue since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in early 2022, including in several op-eds written by the director of the organization’s accountability program, Adam Keith, and by its senior advisor Ben Hodges. The organization developed an ICC Case Tracker to follow the work of the court and the support that key governments are providing.   

For more on Human Rights First’s broader work in support of human rights in Ukraine, see our website.


Published on July 27, 2023


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