At the United for Justice Conference in Toronto, US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice Beth Van Schaack disclosed that Russia is engaging dubious non-governmental organizations in the abduction of Ukrainian children.
“Children from Ukraine are being taken through occupied territories to Russia and further to Belarus. Rather sinister non-governmental organizations are involved in this, such as ultra-right biker groups,” said the diplomat, according to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.
Beth Van Schaack stressed that the widespread removal of Ukrainian children has become a horrific phenomenon, violating the Geneva Conventions and constituting crimes against humanity. She stated that Russian filtration programs break international law.
The diplomat affirmed the United States’ steadfast support for Ukraine and the pursuit of justice but noted that achieving justice requires sustained efforts over time.
“It is extremely important for crimes of aggression to be prosecuted so that autocrats around the world do not believe they can act with impunity. We must demonstrate that the international community will defend territorial integrity and sovereignty. We are searching for mechanisms to achieve accountability,” emphasized Beth Van Schaack.
She suggests mechanisms like establishing a tribunal for aggression, international prosecutions, and holding individuals accountable in foreign courts. However, the primary path to justice lies in Ukrainian courts.
“The air raid sirens wail, bombs fall, rockets fly – teams of prosecutors and investigators work at the scenes. They gather evidence, laying the foundation for cases against defendants either under arrest or tried in absentia, following clear procedures. As an international community, we support this important work,” noted the diplomat.
The European Parliament estimates that up to 300,000 Ukrainian children have been illegally deported to Russia since 2014, starting with the occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
On 17 March 2023, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova on charges related to the war crimes of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.
Recognizing this forced displacement as genocide, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution on 27 April 2023.
On 27 November 2023, the PACE established a special committee to address the violation of the rights of Ukrainian children by Russians. The committee’s inaugural session will take place on 15 December in Paris, focusing on issues of rights violations by Russian occupiers and the problem of the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children.