Why PACE resolution on Ukrainian children is crucial

Friday, 26 January 2024

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has not only addressed issues related to Azerbaijan's presence, but has also adopted several decisions directly concerning Ukraine. The most significant of these is the urgent resolution regarding the situation with Ukrainian children, which the assembly approved on Thursday.

European Pravda has briefly reported on the document and its adoption.

Read more in the article by Sergiy Sydorenko, European Pravda's editor – Cementing genocide: How Ukraine advances PACE recognition of Russia's crime and helps children.

Last April, PACE adopted a truly revolutionary resolution, recognising the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia as genocide and providing legal arguments for why such claims are legitimate. At that time, the assembly became the first international organization to politically recognize Russia's commission of this crime.

This January, PACE has not only reaffirmed this recognition, which is important itself as it signifies the consistency of the policy on this matter. The assembly has taken additional steps.

Firstly, it emphasised Belarus's involvement in the genocide through the kidnapping and deportation of children.

It is crucial, however, for Ukraine that Russia and Belarus are indeed committing genocide joinly, that the accusations against them are not only reiterated at the PACE level but also appear in the decisions of other institutions. So, the PACE decision, unanimously supported by European MPs, calls on the parliaments of these MPs to adopt a similar acknowledgment.

Why is it important?

The emergence of new political acknowledgments of the genocide against Ukrainian children will push for both political and legal investigations into this crime. The International Criminal Court, which is already investigating the criminal case against Putin and Russia's children's ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova, avoids using this term and limits itself to crimes against humanity.

Another truly important approach of this resolution, introduced for the first time, is aimed at overcoming the dangerous myth of Russian propaganda that Russia is forced to take children from Ukraine supposedly for their own good, as it is dangerous for them to stay in Ukraine.

PACE agrees that "the best interests of the child must prevail in all decision-making processes concerning them," but in detail, in several paragraphs and based on the provisions of international law, it argues that the protection of children lies in their return to Ukraine, not the other way around. When, due to armed conflicts, the return of a child to Ukraine is impossible or undesirable, it is necessary to discuss their temporary stay abroad.

This also applies to orphaned and unattended children. Their return to Ukraine is an unconditional manifestation of the approach to the "best interests of the child."

Kyiv has identified more than 19,500 children who were deported or forcibly displaced to Russia, and only 388 of them have returned home.

"The citizenship and name of these children have sometimes been changed by Russian authorities. Some have been adopted illegally. Many are untraceable and have no means of contact with their country or their family. All have been subjected to some form of indoctrination, and a new culture and a new language have been imposed on them," the decision states.

Unfortunately, PACE can only draw attention to the problem. There are no ready paths for its comprehensive resolution.

By the way, children who have left Ukraine for safe EU countries are not an exception.

Moreover, Ukraine can influence the policy of EU member states.

"The Assembly emphasises the essential need for these children to receive education and healthcare, including mental health support, that are tailored to their specific situation, to maintain their connections with their language and culture, which will facilitate their future return to Ukraine, taking into account the best interests of the child," the document states.

PACE has established a special committee on the situation of Ukrainian children, the first meeting of which took place in December. Discussions also focused on how EU states could change their attitudes toward Ukrainian children, as Olena Khomenko (Ukraine, EC/DA) said to European Pravda.

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