Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at a press conference announcing war crimes indictments at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
Thank you very much, Attorney General Garland.
In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security and its Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, created the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center – the only U.S. government entity focused entirely on investigating these global atrocities. For 15 years, this select group of special agents, attorneys, intelligence analysts, criminal research specialists, and historians from across the federal government have worked together and with their international counterparts to hold those who engage in the perpetration of war crimes, genocide, torture, and other human rights violations accountable.
Today, an investigation more than a year in the making by this Center and its federal partners bears fruit. For the first time in our nation’s history, federal agents gathered sufficient evidence to bring charges of war crimes perpetrated against an American citizen – in violation of Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2441. The allegations… detail gruesome events.
The agents who made this case possible were tireless in their investigation, giving extraordinary attention to every detail, and making considerable sacrifices throughout.
In August 2022, these HSI agents traveled with their DOJ and FBI partners to speak with an American citizen who had recently been evacuated from Ukraine, where he had been living with his wife.
The U.S. citizen told our HSI agents how, a few months earlier, he had been violently abducted from his home in the village of Mylove by members of the Russian armed forces. He told HSI investigators… that these Russians had stripped him naked, threw him face down to the ground, tied his hands behind his back, pointed a gun at his head, and severely beat him, including with the stocks of their guns.
The Russian soldiers then took him to a nearby Russian military compound and held him there illegally for 10 days. He reported that, while in forced captivity, he was subjected to two interrogation sessions, during which he was tortured by the four defendants named today. He reported that the Russian defendants had again stripped him naked, photographed him, and severely beat him about the chest and stomach.
One defendant staged a mock execution of him. After asking for the victim’s last words, one of the defendants named today forced the victim to the ground, put a gun to the back of his head, and pulled the trigger – purposely missing the victim’s head by mere inches.
Throughout this past year, our HSI agents, with the assistance of HSI’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center and alongside our FBI partners, have worked to corroborate the victim’s allegations. They traveled internationally to interview the victim’s family. They identified and interviewed individuals who were present within the general vicinity of Mylove around the time the victim was held in captivity, who confirmed the Russian forces’ occupation in the area.
Based on the information they obtained, the HSI agents and their FBI partners were able to identify the four defendants whose indictments are announced today.
I am extraordinarily proud of these federal law enforcement agents. Thanks to their exceptional work, the United States will hold the Russian perpetrators of this unthinkable mistreatment, these unacceptable human rights violations, accountable.
The work of these agents, and the indictments unsealed today, speak to two fundamental truths.
First: there is no higher responsibility of government than to safeguard its people and their basic human rights. As today’s announcement makes clear, when an American citizen’s human rights are violated, their government will spare no effort, and spare no resources, to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Second: the evidence gathered by our agents speaks to the brutality, criminality, and depravity of Russia’s invasion. The Ukrainian people have had, and must continue to have, America’s full support against Russia’s unjust, unprovoked, and unlawful war of aggression. We cannot allow such horrific crimes to be ignored; to do so would only increase the risk they will be repeated.
It is now my honor to introduce Chris Wray, the Director of the FBI.