Garland in Ukraine to talk war crimes prosecution
The attorney general becomes latest member of Biden’s cabinet to make a trip to the war-torn country.
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday made an unannounced visit to Ukraine to discuss U.S. and international efforts to prosecute war crimes resulting from Russia’s invasion.
Appearing alongside Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, Garland expressed “the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine” amid “an unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion.” He spoke from the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing at Krakovets, in western Ukraine.
“I’m here to continue our discussions … about the actions that the United States is taking to assist the Ukrainian authorities in holding accountable those responsible for the atrocities, for the war crimes that the entire world has seen,” Garland said.
The United States, he added, “is sending an unmistakable message: There is no place to hide. We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable.”
Garland also announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team to be led by Eli Rosenbaum, whom the attorney general tapped to serve as counselor for war crimes accountability, according to a Justice Department news release.
Rosenbaum is a more than three-decade department veteran who previously served as director of the Office of Special Investigations, helping identify and deport Nazi war criminals.
Hope Olds, the acting section chief of the department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section, will aid Rosenbaum’s efforts, as will prosecutors Christina Giffin, Christian Levesque and Courtney Urschel, the department said.
With his visit Tuesday, Garland becomes the latest member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet to make a trip to the war-torn country; Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled together to the capital of Kyiv in April. The Justice Department previously announced last week that Garland was traveling elsewhere in Europe for various meetings.
Garland’s visit comes after he revealed in April that the Justice Department was contributing to international investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine, escalating U.S. involvement in efforts to hold Russia legally accountable for atrocities committed during its invasion.
“This department has a long history of helping to hold accountable those who perpetrate war crimes,” Garland said at the time, invoking his predecessor Robert Jackson — a former attorney general in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration who went on to serve as the chief U.S. prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials.
Garland has spoken publicly in the past about his grandparents fleeing antisemitic pogroms in Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, eventually finding refugee in the United States. A former Supreme Court nominee and chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Garland rose to prominence in part because of his role in the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers.