Ukraine’s president addresses International Bar Association's annual conference in Miami
Specially recorded video at opening ceremony follows IBA cooperation agreement with Ukraine to ensure accountability for Russia's war crimes
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has marked the opening of the International Bar Association’s (IBA's) annual conference by calling on the global legal community to help ensure Russia’s leaders are held to account for its invasion of Ukraine.
In a recorded message for the opening ceremony in Miami on Sunday evening, Zelenskyy described the delegation of more than 5,000 lawyers from 130 jurisdictions as “defenders of the law and human rights”.
He said: “Lawyers will put an end to this war – after the military, after politicians. Exactly lawyers. Lawyers will ensure that all those who are guilty of terror are brought to justice and that all damages caused by Russia are compensated at the expence of the assets of the aggressor state itself.”
His comments follow the signing of a memorandum of understanding on 27 October between the IBA and the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine on ‘cooperation to ensure accountability for war crimes and other international crimes including the crimes of aggression, genocide and conflict-related sexual violence’.
During the ceremony, representatives from Ukraine’s two bar associations were presented with IBA leadership awards ‘in recognition of extraordinary leadership and dedication shown in protecting human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine during a time of war’.
The recipients were Dr Valentyn Gvozdiy, vice president of the Ukrainian National Bar Association, and Anna Ogrenchuk, president of the Ukrainian Bar Association.
Ogrenchuk thanked the IBA for helping Ukraine's lawyers navigate “this darkest year together”. She added: “Together we helped thousands of Ukrainians through our legal aid platform, documented more than 20 thousand pieces of digital evidence of war crimes by using the EyeWitness App, advanced a Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine and did so many other things to restore the rule of law.”
IBA President Sternford Moyo said: “It has been another year of witnessing an increase in authoritarian rule, blatant human rights violations and the continued erosion of the Rule of Law across the world. During this week in Miami, there will be a series of strong sessions that highlight these and other challenges facing not only the legal profession but our world, including cybersecurity, climate change and sustainability, artificial intelligence and human rights to name a few.”
The annual conference, which runs from 30 October – 4 November, is the first to be held in person since 2019, having originally been scheduled to take place in Miami in 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic forced it to be postponed.
While the Covid-19 pandemic led to predictions of a permanent decline in business travel, the queues of delegates lining up to enter the vast Miami Beach Convention Centre suggested international lawyers are more than happy to be back on the in-person conference circuit.
Executive director Dr Michael Ellis said: “Lawyers from across the world have come together to debate serious issues, exchange knowledge and develop a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, perspectives that may differ from one’s own. The IBA’s Annual Conference provides a congenial environment for these exchanges and a forum where many can explore legal issues far removed from usual day-to-day practice.”