I am delivering this statement on behalf of Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union Member States.
Today, our delegations will send the following letter to ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci, invoking the Moscow Mechanism, with the support of Ukraine, as we continue to have concerns regarding violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law following Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine, particularly with regard to the forced transfer and deportation of children by the Russian Federation.
On February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation, with the support of Belarus, launched a full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine. This expanded invasion took place against the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine that has, since 2014, violated Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.
In 2022, 45 OSCE Delegations, following bilateral consultations with Ukraine under the Vienna (Human Dimension) Mechanism, twice invoked Paragraph 8 of the Moscow (Human Dimension) Mechanism “to address the human rights and humanitarian impacts of the Russian Federation’s invasion and acts of war, supported by Belarus, on the people of Ukraine, within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and territorial waters.”
As a result of these two invocations, OSCE participating States received the independent expert missions’ reports of 12 April and 11 July 2022. Alongside the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Second Interim Report of 14 December 2022, these confirmed our shared concerns about the impact of the Russian Federation’s invasion and acts of war, its violations and abuses of human rights, and violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine, and, in particular, credible reports of forced transfer and deportation of Ukrainian civilians, including unaccompanied children.
We are particularly alarmed by the findings of both expert missions that some of the violations may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes.
For instance, in the 12 April 2022 report, the mission of experts stated, inter alia, that “Equally alarming are the reports about the alleged detention of large numbers of Ukrainian civilians and their massive displacement to the areas under the effective control of Russia or, even, to Russia’s own territory. The Mission recalls that deportation and forcible transfer of population, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population with the knowledge of this attack, constitutes a crime against humanity”.
Furthermore, in the 11 July 2022 report, the expert mission noted evidence of deportations, inter alia, that “since 1 April 2022, the number of Ukrainian civilians deported from the occupied territories to Russia has continued to rise.” It was stated that “Mass forcible transfers of civilians during a conflict to the territory of the occupying party are prohibited under the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The practice is considered a war crime.”
Additionally, on 14 December 2022, in its Second Interim Report on reported violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Ukraine, ODIHR stated, in particular, that “Various reports collected throughout the reporting period provide evidence that the Russian Federation has adopted a policy with regard to unaccompanied children that may be contrary to applicable international law. Numerous credible allegations of forced transfer and deportation of unaccompanied children within the occupied territories of Ukraine, as well as to the Russian Federation’s own territory, have been documented in recent months.”
We acknowledge that children are among the most vulnerable in times of war and require special attention and protection. As OSCE participating States have committed “to actively promote children’s rights and interests, especially in conflict and post conflict situations” (Istanbul 1999 Summit Declaration), we are appalled by the reports that many children are among those Ukrainian civilians forcibly transferred within parts of Ukraine’s territory temporarily controlled or occupied by Russia and/or deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation, and by reports that Russian authorities undertake to re-educate and assimilate them. We also are concerned about reports of so-called “summer camps”, where allegedly children have been barred from contacting or returning to their parents or guardians. We are concerned that the forcible transfer and/or deportation of these children may also expose them to numerous human rights violations and abuses, in particular those relating to a change of the child’s personal status, including citizenship, separation from parents or guardians, adoption, and other violations or abuses leading to forced assimilation. We note that some of the reported cases date back before 24 February 2022.
Gravely concerned by the continuing impacts of Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, in particular on the civilian population, including children, the delegations of Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America), following bilateral consultations with Ukraine under the Vienna Mechanism, invoke the Moscow (Human Dimension) Mechanism under Paragraph 8 of that document.
We request that ODIHR inquire of Ukraine whether it would invite a mission of experts to build upon previous findings and establish the facts and circumstances surrounding possible contraventions of relevant OSCE commitments, violations and abuses of human rights, and violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as well as possible cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, associated with or resulting from the forcible transfer of children within parts of Ukraine’s territory temporarily controlled or occupied by Russia and/or their deportation to the Russian Federation; and to collect, consolidate, and analyze this information with a view to offer recommendations, as well as provide the information to relevant accountability mechanisms, as well as national, regional, or international courts or tribunals that have, or may in future have, jurisdiction.
We also invite ODIHR to provide any relevant information or documentation derived from any new expert mission to other appropriate accountability mechanisms, as well as national, regional, or international courts or tribunals that have, or may in future have, jurisdiction.
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson