Security of Orphans in Ukraine’s War Zone

The member organizations of the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations have received news that Ukrainian orphans in the Donetsk region are under imminent threat of being forcibly removed from Ukraine to Russia by illegal occupiers. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49, an occupier may not forcibly deport protected persons. Further, Article 78 of additional Protocol I to the Geneva Convention prescribes that “no party to a conflict shall arrange for evacuation of children, other than its own nationals, to a foreign country.”

The abduction of children is a grave violation not only of the Geneva Convention but also other UN conventions and treaties. According to the UN publication, The Six Grave Violations against Children During Armed Conflict: The Legal Foundation, “the abduction of a child violates the rights of the child and family, as recognized by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ICCPR and the UDHR.”

The magnitude of the impending violation is compounded by the consequences that often follow a child’s abduction in a conflict zone, including trafficking and enslavement. Children, and particularly orphans, need special protection because they are especially vulnerable. During the rapidly escalating armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, the children are in extreme danger of being exploited by traffickers once they are removed from their orphanages under the pretext of protecting them. Without oversight by an impartial agency such as the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, the children are at high risk of abuse and exploitation.

We are outraged at the threats of the occupiers of the Donetsk region, namely, the imminent abduction and forcible deportation of Ukrainian orphans, and at Russia’s complicity in an action, that if carried out, would be tantamount to a war crime. We call on the Ukrainian government to demand the immediate return of any abducted children, to prevent the forcible deportation of any children in the future, and to assure a safe haven for the children currently living in the war-ravaged eastern regions of Ukraine. Further, we call on the UN organs—UNICEF, the UN Committee on Children’s Rights, UNODC, the OHCHR, the UN Under-Secretary-General on Children as Combatants and Victims in Conflict — to intervene on behalf of the orphans of Ukraine.

Irene Orysia Sushko
World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations

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