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What is the role of the judges (judiciary) in our law?

Makers, translators, interpreters or misinterpreters of the law? Part 1

Row has erupted in the country (Botswana) when, on the 26th of September 2015, His Excellency, the President Ian Khama, suspended the quartet of Judges on allegations of having concurrently occupied government houses and undeservedly received accommodation allowances for a considerable period of time.

Suggestions from some quarters are that there is need to make arrangements to pay back the money as the matter is purely administrative and a mere blunder on the part of the staff at the department of Administration Of Justice. In that sense, to borrow Shakespeare‘s words, the judges are more sinned against than sinning’ (‘King Lear’ Act 5 scene 2 lines 57 – 60).

Begging to differ, other people are of the opinion that this anomaly is nothing but a tip of the proverbial iceberg of what is happening behind the scenes within the judiciary and therefore contend that nothing short of a deterrent measure will right this wrong.

But what does the constitution say about that development?

Section 97 of the Botswana Constitution provides for grounds and procedures to be followed religiously for the removal of judges of the High Court

‘A judge of the High Court may (and not shall) be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his or her office (whether arising from infirmity of the body or mind or any other cause or for misbehavior, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section’ (subsection 2) and subsection 3 reads;

‘If the President considers that the question of removing a judge of the High Court under this section ought to be investigated then

(a) He or she shall appoint a tribunal which shall consist of a Chairman and not less than two other members, who hold or have held high judicial office

(b)the tribunal shall enquire into the matter and report on the facts thereof to the President and advise the President whether the judge ought to be removed from office under this section for inability as aforesaid or for misbehavior’

Subsection 4 provides that if the tribunal advises the President to remove the judge concerned he (the President) shall dismiss that judge.

As can be seen, the wording of the constitution is quite clear but what differs is the interpretation and that is the center of the debate. For example, what is misbehavior? And how can it be quantified? Unfortunately, the constitution does not have the interpretation section to define the word and it will be up to the Judges, and not President, to decide the meaning, using their own viewstandards given the value-laden or normative nature of the concept. But why this panic given that section 10 of our constitution presumes everyone innocent till proven guilty?.

This writer‘s interest lies not in the debate on whether or not His Excellency has acted ultra-vires the Constitution but on: who really makes the law, the politician or judge? Are judges translators, interpreters or mis-interpreters of the law?  Before addressing these emotive questions we need to refresh our minds by getting into the bible and then link our discoveries to the topic in question.

When Jesus Christ was rejected at Nazareth,’ he could not do mighty  works—because of people ‘s unbelief” This is Mark ,the evangelist, ‘s version (Mark 6:5).

After having noted that this presentation was not only unintelligible and absurd  but was bound  to leave a sour taste in the mouths of the early Christian community, Matthew sugar-coated it to read ‘— He could not do many mighty works—‘(Matthew 13:58).

It is in this context that Matthew is regarded a modified version of Mark whose language was rough and ready and riddled with grammatical slips and peculiar construction of various description .In the process, he  ended up  confusing  both the reader and himself  due to his failure to put himself across effectively.

As can be seen, Matthew ended up totally changing the complexion of Mark’s story through the insertion of the word ‘many’. Judges have similar powers, as we shall realise. In a related development ,Mark portrays James and John ,the sons of Zebedee ,as very ambitious people who went to Jesus demanding for the lion ‘s share in the kingdom of God (Mark 10:35-45)but Matthew exonerates them by saying it was their mother who did so(Matthew 20:20-28).

The two separate occasions by Mark reflect the weak or dark side of  both our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself, and two of his inner circle disciples, the former succumbing to anger while the latter are over-ambitious. No doubt, at the back of his mind, Mark did not intend to bring about this result but due to lack of education and stunted intellectual and linguistic prowess, he unwittingly produced that effect.

When interpreting statutes judges often encounter problems of this sort and are forced to invoke the above Matthew- an approach. Students of statutory interpretation, I am sure, would recall terms ‘laps us linguae’ or ‘scrivener‘s error’ meaning ‘slip of the tongue’. 

What makes the situation worse is that the meanings of words are neither fixed nor final but vary according to the context in terms of time, culture etc. Just like the concepts deviance and beauty, which lie in the eyes of the beholder, the meaning of a word is influenceddetermined by what the reader would want it to mean.

I am sure that those into socio-linguistics would support my contention that words do not have meanings but we give meanings to words and words are just but symbols which represent phenomena. Also, words are a social convention which we use to express our thoughts. For example, a table could be something else but we call it such for convenience‘s sake.

This equally applies for what we write. As humans continue indulging in a social intercourse some words become obsolete while new ones come into picture and this is also influenced by the ever-changing socio-political, economic and environmental situation obtaining at any given time.

Do you still remember, for instance, the archaic Shakespearean or Chaucer‘s English? Also, do you remember how those with the poetic license can easily  combine and recombine ,in a very unique way, ordinary words, into new expressions  ,in as much the same way as man can combine and recombine objects into new devices?

The above scenario compares very well with the co-relationship between the legislators and the judges  and, how through statutory interpretation, judges totally stray from what Parliament meant or wrote ,by creating sense into the legislature’s ‘nonsense’, and this leaves us doubting who between the two arms of government, the legislature or the judiciary, is the supreme law making body. This task naturally leads us to the doctrine of separation of powers which we briefly delve into.

The term Separation of powers, which was coined by Montesquieu, the French philosopher, is the formal division of the 3 arms of government in the following manner: structure, function and personnel. The issue of checks and balances is also an integral aspect of this concept. With regards to structure, we mean the 3 arms exist as distinct entities which cumulatively make up one (government).

As an illustration, Parliament (legislature) is distinct from the Executive and the Judiciary. In terms of personnel, a member of one arm of government should not double cross it with the other arms as in being a Member of Parliament, a judge and a member of the Executive at the same time.

Their functions (duties) are markedly different also: Parliament makes the law, which we call a statute or Act of Parliament such as the Employment Act, the Public Service Act or the Penal Code; the Judiciary interprets that law so that it becomes crystal clear while the Executive applies and enforces the law.

This concept ensures that there is specialization and specialization brings about operational efficiency and effectiveness. Again, following the adage power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, we are trying to guard against a situation where power is concentrated in one bodyarm as it will be subject to abuse.

By checks and balances we mean one arm should act as a monitoring mechanism to check the abuse of power by the other arm. In political science we use the concept trias politicas doctrine for separation of powers and its antonym is fusion of powers.

The concept ‘fusion of powers’ is designed in such a way that the 3 arms do everything jointly as was the case with monarchs during primitive times: the king was lawmaker (legislature), interpreter (judiciary)and enforcer(executive).This was the also the case with  the biblical Moses(Deuteronomy 16:18,numbers 18:13).We detailed this concept because it will be referred to ,more often than not , in the subsequent  presentations.

Without getting into the heart of legalese, the law comes into being through the initiative of the politicians in both the legislature and Executive. Meaning  through the hands –on- approach ,the Executive arm  eg the Ministry of Education initiates a Bill (proposed law)governing that department and it is taken to the August House for debating.

If it succeeds the Bill becomes law and this becomes so after the Presidential Assent and subsequent publication in the Government Gazette. Of course, the Attorney General, who is the principal legal adviser to the Legislature, also plays a role since in most jurisdictions he is the ex-officio Member of Parliament. We also have the Parliamentary legal committee which, in my view, must consist of people with legal minds so that some loopholes in the Bill are detected early and rectified before it graduates into law.

As a monitoring mechanism again, the President, who is the embodiment of the constitution would not assent to a   Bill that  is ultra-vires the constitution. On that basis, one can safely conclude that it is Parliament, and not the judiciary, that makes the law.

When members of Parliament make the law it is not in their individual capacity but on behalf of the electorate and ,as such ,that law must prevail ,even if unreasonable? This is what democracy is all about! But is it really legislators who make the law?

When a case has found its way into court, the judges (courts) have the duty to apply that law in concrete situations and this is achieved through the interpretation of statutes.

In this exercise the court will be trying to deduce the meaning of a statute as worded in the text itself(textualism ); in principle ,maintain the message of that statute without attaching their own views (originalism);bring to light the intention of Parliament (intentionalism) plus unveil and advance  the purpose the statute serves(purposivism).

These are the main theories of statutory interpretation: (textualism, intentionalism, originalism and purposivism).Whichever way one looks at it ,when members of Parliament makes a law they have an intention in mind.

The problems which arise are, inter alia,:  has this intention achieved a certain purpose or objective as spelt out in the long title ,for example? Does the wording of the text really capture the intention of the legislators and does the interpretation accorded to the statute by the judges reflect originality when judged against that text?

Above all, which of these theories is most important? Most Judges hold the view that the purpose of the statute is more primary when compared with everything else and that both the text and legislators’ intention are secondary.

According to that reasoning the purpose is the end in itself while the text and intention are means to that end. A text is an expression of Parliament‘s intention and the intention is to bring about a purpose. If that intention does not yield desired results, judges must improve on it!. It makes sense!

Yes if the text is comprehensive (ble) and lays bare the meaning, that will be a good starting point and it is advantageous because information will be in its virgin state. The next stage is whether or not it brings to light the intention of parliament .If not then the text needs modification.

Suppose it does bring the intention but does not advance its (text) purpose? Again there will be a need to do something onabout the text. What will be the importance of having a statute that does not serve a purpose? That being the case, courts will be acting as a catalyst to achieve parliament‘s purpose.

The word intention, per se, means knowledge plus, and not or, the will. The ‘knowledge’ is the knowledge of the act itself while ‘will’ refers to the desire ,wish  or want .If either of these elements is missing then there is no intention to talk about.

It is a fact that ,unlike judges ,most legislators are misinformed about on certain legal issues(knowledge) ,though they might have the zeal to bring about a particular result  (will).In this case the ‘will’  is there but ,alas,  minus the knowledge.

The learned judges ,who are experts at that field ,therefore  become handy in helping the legislators bring about their purpose if ,for instance ,they suspect that the politicians are were not aware that what they wanted to bring about wasis against other provisions  or aspects of our law.     

What is interpretation, as opposed to translation? To interpret is to form an opinion from given facts or deduce the implication of what someone says. Translation, on the other hand, refers to merely reducing or converting one language into another eg from Setswana to English.

For example, preachers in Church are involved in interpretation of the ‘word ‘and people usually get locked up in disputes over an interpretation of the  same  words in the bible.(At times ,however, translation is involved if the bible has been  written in a foreign language).

In the same vein, judges are always arguing over the interpretation ,and  not translation, of a statutory provision, as we saw above. On that basis ,it is actually a misnomer ,if not a mischievous misrepresentation of the facts, to refer the court personnel in charge of converting one language into another to as court interpreters but, instead, translators.

If they were interpreters what would be the duty of the court? It is for the same reason that even witnesses are not allowed to interpret but simply state the facts as they are without forming an opinion! Judges give meanings to written words presented to them by Parliament through an Act.

Unfortunately ,as alluded to elsewhere, the authors of that document are mostly laypersons who do not have the slightest  idea about the characteristics of  a good law and are not even available in court  to clarify what they meant .In the light of a lapse of time all the authors of that statute might be dead ,just like Shakespeare must be turning  in his grave  and  mourning as he hears in his spiritual ear mis-readers or mis-interpreters of his writings. Tragic as it sounds, he cannot do anything to change it.

Tough luck again, because in any society that lays claim to the espousal of democracy, everyone, and judges included, is entitled to his own opinion, whether bad or good. As noted above, judges are not translators but interpreters of the law.

We must have noted that in the process of interpreting statutes, judges employ various tools or aids, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic ones are those within the statute itself such as the long and short titles, headings and the preamble.

Those outside the text are the extrinsic aids and they include the historical background surrounding that statute eg if it was crafted against the background of Apartheid.

This information could be drawn from textbooks and other pieces of literature. Dictionaries could also be referred to and even the Hansard. Judges also make use of cannons, maximums, and presumptions and, of course, the rules of interpretation which are the Literal, Golden and Mischief rules.

In a word, this article defined the concepts separation of powers, translation and interpretation of statutes and concluded that it is, on the face of it, Parliament which is the supreme law making body.

We also realized that it is only the court (judges) which has the powers to interpret, and not translate, the law since we have court personnel that is involved in the translation. We managed to browse through possible reasons why the interpreter (judge) might give words a different meaning from what a writer (Parliament) intended.

Next week we shall get into the rules of interpretation and see how judges depart from what Parliament intended and, in the process, make their own laws, laws never envisaged by the legislature, or misinterpret the law either deliberately or by accident. Deliberately — as a necessary evil in order to either help bring to light Parliament‘s intention or help achieve the Act‘s purpose. In the oncoming epistle, again, we shall also try to map the best way forward.

See part 2 of this discussion next week.

KUNGWENGWE –MAN-IA RETURNS
(KUNGWENGWE CHARLES STAR)
Email: maniareturns@gmail.com ckungws@gmail.com

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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