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Human rights activists ask ICC to reclassify deportation of Ukrainian children as genocide

26 December, 2023 Tuesday
19:20

Human rights activists ask the International Criminal Court to reclassify the case of deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia from the article War Crimes to the article Genocide

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Mykola Komarovsky, a lawyer of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, said this during a press conference at the Ukraine-Ukrinform Media Center.

"I should note that our main goal is to try to convince the Prosecutor’s Office to reclassify the already opened proceedings from Article 8, which is called War Crimes of the Rome Statute, to the crime of genocide," he said.

According to him, various human rights groups have repeatedly addressed the ICC with this issue.

Komarovsky noted that human rights activists also pointed to the facts of the so-called adoption of Ukrainian children by Russian officials in their submission.

"This is strong evidence, it is included in our submission, in its factual part. And it also allows us to prove many other legal constructions that are necessary to indicate that there is a crime of genocide," the human rights activist said.

According to him, the actual starting point in this matter can be considered the decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin on granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian children in an arbitrary form.

Komarovsky also noted that the reclassification of the case is a lengthy process, as only the stage of submitting this document to the ICC Prosecutor's Office has been completed.

"Compared to our Ukrainian legislation, this is the stage of pre-trial investigation, where evidence is also collected and these acts are preliminarily qualified. And this process, unfortunately, is not quick, it can actually last for years. And much will depend on how the events in the war in Ukraine develop further," Komarovsky explained.

The human rights activist is convinced that the recognition of the deportation of Ukrainian children as genocide will be important for further prosecution of those involved in war crimes.

"The main outcome we are seeking is to bring the perpetrators to justice. If we talk about the ICC, this is the responsibility of the top political leadership (of the Russian Federation - ed.). But it (achieving this goal - ed.) is very complicated and depends on many aspects, and above all on how the war in Ukraine will develop further," the lawyer summarized.

Deportation of Ukrainian children

In the context of a full-scale invasion, Russia is deporting Ukrainian children en masse from the occupied territories of Ukraine. They are taken to the occupied Crimea, Russia or Belarus, allegedly for rehabilitation or to rest in camps.

On March 17, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. They are suspected of forcibly deporting Ukrainian children.

On April 27, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognized the deportation of residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia as genocide and welcomed the issuance of arrest warrants for Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova by the International Criminal Court.

On the same day, Vladimir Putin signed a decree allowing for the deportation of Ukrainians for refusing to accept Russian passports.

A special report presented by the OSCE on May 4 stated that Russia's forced deportation of Ukrainian children could be recognized as a crime against humanity.

On May 24, the Ukrainian Prosecutor's Office reported that Ukraine was investigating the possible role of Belarus in the forced deportation of children from the temporarily occupied territories. Criminal proceedings were opened. 

On May 29, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets spoke at an informal meeting of the UN Security Council on the issue of Russia's abduction of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine. The Ombudsman said that Russia deliberately changes legislation to make it impossible for Ukrainian children to return home and uses, among other things, the forced change of their citizenship to Russian.

Lubinets also noted that Russia does not provide any data on Ukrainian deported children - it is not even known where they are and in what conditions. He also said that Russians use child labour and militarize Ukrainian children in the temporarily occupied territories.

Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets says Ukraine has confirmation that the forced deportation of Ukrainian children and prisoners of war took place on the territory of Belarus with the participation of the Belarusian authorities. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk said that Russia is changing the names and dates of birth of illegally deported children.

Later, evidence emerged of Belarus' involvement in the deportation of Ukrainian children. On June 27, the Belarusian opposition submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court of the involvement of self-proclaimed head of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and his entourage in war crimes.

In return, the Russian State Duma stated that 700,000 Ukrainian children had been deported to Russia since 2014.

On July 17, the UK government imposed new sanctions against Russians involved in the illegal removal of children from Ukraine. These include the Russian Ministers of Culture and Education.

On August 1, the US State Department called on Russia to stop deporting Ukrainian children from the occupied territories and to return them home.

On August 10, National Resistance Center reported Russian forces took teenagers from the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk region to military camps in Russia. The teenagers are being trained there, among other things.

On August 11, the self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has confirmed that forcibly deported Ukrainian children are held in his country. He added that Russia, Belarus would continue to take children from Ukraine.

On November 23, the BBC wrote that the leader of the Just Russia political party, 70-year-old Sergei Mironov, adopted a 10-month-old girl abducted from the Kherson regional orphanage.

On December 7, the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, reported that Russia had officially confirmed the deportation of 19,540 Ukrainian children.

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