According to Human Rights Without Frontiers the Adviser-Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for Children’s Rights and Children’s Rehabilitation Daria Gerasymchuk reports that Ukrainian authorities have collected personal data of about 20,000 cases although there might be ten times more according to incontrollable figures circulating both in Russia and in Ukraine.
The report “Ukrainian Children in Search of a Way Home from Russia” reveals that only 386 children have found a way back home. They could not be returned through negotiations with the Russian side but every time it could only be achieved through a specific rescue operation.
According to Maria Mezentseva, the head of the Verkhovna Rada delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Ukraine handed over a list with the names of 19,000 Ukrainian children abducted by Russia to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). They have the authority to visit them and learn about the conditions of children’s detention.
On 17th March 2023, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova for unlawful deportation of children. In the meantime, a number of them have been illegally adopted by Russian families.
A controversy broke out in July between Kyiv and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) when Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba claimed that Ukrainian children were in Belarus and the Belarusian representative of the Red Cross, Dmitry Shevtsov, was seen in camouflage with a chevron of the occupiers with the letter Z.
Ukraine responsibly cooperates with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) in order to stop and prevent violations against children during the conflict, and calls on the UN to fundamentally and persistently demand from the Russian Federation cooperation with the CAAC mechanism, access to all temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, as well as to its territory, since the CAAC mandate includes child abduction crimes.
In Ukraine, several cooperation structures between relevant ministries, the UN and UNICEF have been put in place.
In its recommendations, Human Rights Without Frontiers urges:
- Russia to ensure that no changes are made to the personal status of Ukrainian children, including their citizenship;
- all parties to continue to ensure that the best interests of all children are respected, including by facilitating family tracing and reunification of unaccompanied and/or separated children who find themselves outside borders or control lines without their families or guardians;
- parties to the conflict to grant child protection authorities access to these children to facilitate family reunification;
- the UN Special Representative on “Children and Armed Conflicts’, together with other UN agencies and partners, to consider ways to facilitate such processes.
Main image: By Mirek Pruchnicki from Przemyśl, Sanok, Polska – Ukrainian children are fleeing Russian aggression. Przemyśl, Poland 27/02/2022, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=115724796