Toespraak van minister Yeşilgöz–Zegerius bij MLA Initiative negotiations

Toespraak van minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius (JenV) tijdens de MLA Initiative negotiations bij de Diplomatic Conference in Ljubljana (Slovenië). Deze vond plaats op 15 mei 2023. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Madam President,

We are working together internationally on many fronts around the world to make society safer, more stable and more prosperous.

Individual countries successfully provide their own food supplies, but turn to other countries if, for example, they do not grow their own grain.

Individual countries provide their own stable energy supplies, but turn to other countries if, for example, they cannot extract oil or gas themselves.

Individual countries hunt down international crime suspects themselves, but will turn to another country if that is where evidence is located.

That is how an international society works, but in the case of the last example, we still need an effective legal framework. The lack of such a framework makes national detection and prosecution of international crimes more difficult and allows war criminals to evade justice.  

Along with Belgium and Slovenia, and later Argentina, Senegal and Mongolia, the Netherlands took the lead in seeking a solution to this legal gap. This resulted in the Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition Initiative.

And what a result that was: we are here today ‒ 12 years, 79 official declarations of support and numerous informal negotiations and meetings later ‒ with 71 countries,  7 international organisations and 13 civil society organisations at the negotiating table. And we’re all here with the aim of achieving a decisive and effective range of legal instruments.

We are doing that here in Ljubljana, the home of the famous Triple Bridge, the Tromostovje. The arch bridge, built in 1842, perfectly symbolises the path we are taking.

At 1 point, it became a traffic bottleneck, right in the heart of the city. So pedestrian bridges were built on either side, allowing traffic to flow freely once again.

The legal gap is like that bottleneck. Criminal investigations can grind to a halt because of that gap, which is why the Netherlands is passionate about bridging it.

As the host nation of various international tribunals and international courts, the Netherlands has a special role and responsibility in ensuring that people who have committed international crimes do not enjoy impunity.

This underlines the importance that the Netherlands attaches to the fight against impunity. A fight that is now more topical than ever.

War has been raging in Ukraine for more than 14 months. While heavy fighting still continues, Ukraine and various other countries have already launched investigations into war crimes. To be able to actually hold the perpetrators of those crimes to account, this treaty is essential. And we hope to sign it very soon.

I cannot emphasise enough who it is we’re signing it for: victims of the most serious international crimes all over the world. We are talking about war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Victims and their families deserve our attention and our support.

Some of them have never left the place where the atrocities occurred, others have fled their country. But what they have in common is that they will be haunted by their memories for years to come, perhaps for a lifetime.

Their stories are heart-breaking. I’m thinking of the Yazidi women who had to watch as their husbands and sons were killed and were then themselves subjected to the most horrific crimes.

When talking to them, I was moved by their unimaginable strength and determination. I have so much admiration for them. And through their courage, they are telling us loud and clear: fight for us, remember our stories and make sure others are spared this suffering.

That’s why we are here. Together, we will create a legal framework to allow effective collaboration in criminal investigations.

That’s how we will bridge the bottlenecks that we still encounter, for instance in examining witnesses, extraditing individuals and transferring offenders to serve their sentence in another country. And that’s how we will allow the international legal traffic to flow freely once more.

Before I give the stage to the next speaker, I would like to invite you for next Monday. Our embassy here in Ljubljana will then host a reception with an exclusive viewing of a Rembrandt exhibition. You are kindly invited to join this event and may the art inspire your interactions these weeks.

Thank you.