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Council of Europe condemns Russia’s deportation of Ukrainian children as ‘genocide’

27.04.2023 22:30
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted that Russia’s forced detention and deportation of children from occupied areas of Ukraine is “genocide.”
The seat of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.
The seat of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.Council of Europe, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The resolution passed on an overwhelming 87-1 vote, with one abstention, at a session in Strasbourg, France, on Thursday, officials said.

The document is entitled Deportations and forcible transfers of Ukrainian children and other civilians to Russian Federation or to Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied: create conditions for their safe return, stop these crimes and punish the perpetrators, Ukraine’s Interfax news agency reported. 

‘Russia must halt unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine’

Based on a report by Portuguese lawmaker Paulo Pisco, the assembly called in the resolution for “immediate and urgent action to be taken to halt the practices of unlawful forcible transfer and deportation currently being carried out by the Russian Federation against the Ukrainian population, and especially its policy and practices relating to the removal of children from their families and homes and their subsequent absorption into Russian citizenship, identity and culture.” 

It added: “The assembly highlights the need for the recording and monitoring of individual cases, both in order to permit mechanisms for rapid redress, and to collect evidence of accountability in order to bring the perpetrators, at all levels of responsibility, to justice.”

The Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly also called for the practice to stop “immediately and unconditionally”. 

It also called for access to Russia for the UN and International Red Cross and Red Crescent to gather information on deported children, and urged states to gather evidence of crimes – including genocide – that may have been committed, according to officials.

‘It’s not an accidental crime, it’s Russia’s policy’: Ukraine’s first lady

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska spoke to the assembly by video-link from Kyiv, and  recounted the personal stories of some children who had almost been abducted, reporters were told. 

Zelenska told the Council of Europe’s parliamentarians: “The Hague Court has named two suspects, but in reality there are thousands of them, because this is not an accidental crime. It is a whole policy, and a whole conscious mechanism by Russia – to alienate our children, depriving them of their families, names, language, roots.”

The assembly also welcomed the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue arrest warrants for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova on war crimes charges, related to  “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children, and urged enforcement of these warrants, officials said.

'Crime of genocide'

The Council of Europe’s parliamentarians said that “the forcible transfer of children from one group to another group, with the intention to destroy, totally or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group is considered as a crime of genocide under Article 2 paragraph (e) of the 1948 Genocide Convention, which matches with the documented evidence of deportation and forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation or territories temporarily under Russian occupation.”

By mid-April, more than 19,384 children had been deported from Ukraine to Russia, of which only 361 have returned home, according to the government of Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported.

Last month, Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Union's executive Commission, announced that "in partnership with the Ukrainians, [Polish] Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and I have launched an initiative aiming at bringing back these children that have been abducted by Russia.” 

The Council of Europe is an international organisation that brings together 46 countries aiming to uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

Thursday is day 428 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: PACE, The New Voice of Ukraine, Interfax-Ukraine, president.gov.ua