Prepared Statement by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
on Accountability for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity
September 28, 2022
Thank you, Chairman Durbin, for holding
this important hearing.
Since Russia’s unprovoked and
unjustified invasion of Ukraine began in February, we’ve all been horrified by
the reports of war crimes committed by Russian forces. We’ve heard of mass
graves, torture, sexual assault, the bombing of a mall crowded with civilians
and even an attack on a maternity hospital.
Ukraine has begun to successfully
prosecute some war crimes. I hope many more perpetrators will be brought to
We know from our experience with Nazi
war criminals that some offenders will escape immediate prosecution. They may
assume false names. They may flee to other countries. Some may even
successfully make it to the United States.
When these war criminals get into the
United States, they can’t be allowed to live freely in our country. We have to
have options to exclude, extradite and punish war criminals.
We must enhance our immigration laws and
ensure it’s as difficult as possible for individuals who engage in human rights
violations to enter and remain in the United States.
The bill would formally authorize ICE’s
Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, which has done great work to
ensure that the United States doesn’t become a refuge for those who engage in
war crimes and human rights violations.
It also updates our immigration laws to
include specific grounds of inadmissibility and deportability for persecutors
and war criminals, and to better take account of non-state groups that engage
in extrajudicial killings.
Since cases against human rights
violators are often built on criminal statutes related to fraud, perjury and
false statements, it would also increase the statute of limitations to 20 years
in cases of fraud, perjury and misrepresentation that involve human rights
Finally, it would give USCIS full access
to criminal history records and authorize DHS to assess fees to fund the visa
security and national security programs within DHS.
I’m proud of this bill and think it’s a
step in the right direction to ensure that this country is never a safe haven
for war criminals and human rights violators.
I look forward to working with my
colleagues on this committee and in the Senate to advance this legislation.
But we also have to have a prosecution
option. We can work with Ukraine to send war criminals back for trial where
they committed their crimes. But there will be times, perhaps other conflicts,
where no other authority will be available to prosecute.
With Senators Durbin, Graham, Leahy,
Blunt and Coons, I’ve introduced the Justice
for Victims of War Crimes Act
. This bipartisan bill narrowly expands
the jurisdiction of the existing war crimes statute. It ensures that we have a
prosecution option when foreign war criminals are present in our territory.
This type of jurisdiction already exists
for many statutes, including many terrorism statutes.
I understand that the Department of
Defense would like to see this expansion, because it fulfills our obligations
under the Geneva Conventions. It ensures that there is no safe haven for any
I hope we’ll work together to ensure
this fix becomes law.
I thank the witnesses for appearing
today, and I look forward to hearing more from you about what our government
can do to combat atrocities and punish those who commit them.