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Sunday, April 2, 2023

Russian child abduction in Ukraine is a heinous crime

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Russia’s responsibility for war crimes in Ukraine, as well as for unleashing a war of aggression itself, is increasingly at the center of attention of the world community. Among the most serious violations of international law are the actions of the Russian authorities and military against children in the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.

At the end of January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, declared that Russia was violating the fundamental principles of the protection of children in wartime by issuing Russian passports to Ukrainian children and having them adopted by families. Russians. We are talking about children who were transported from Ukraine to Russia. Often against their will.

Ukraine’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights and rehabilitation, Daria Gerasimchuk, said in January that her agency “succeeded in identifying and verifying the data of 13,899 children abducted and deported by the Russian military.” . Ukraine’s Children’s Ombudsman said only 125 of them had managed to return home.

Critics of Moscow’s actions liken its deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia to the “Germanization” to which Nazi Germany subjected children in the central and eastern European countries it occupied. Moreover, Russia regularly bombs peaceful areas of Ukrainian cities, increasing the number of Ukrainian citizens killed by its actions every day.

On how to hold the Russian authorities accountable for war crimes, is it possible to expel Moscow from major international organizations, as well as the fate of Russian political prisoners, the Russian media service asked in an exclusive interview with the American ambassador. to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) by Michael Carpenter.

Danila Galperovich: The international community is looking for ways to hold Russia accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. What can be done within the OSCE for this, and what other options are there?

Michael Carpenter: Yes, accountability work is an essential foundation of the work of the OSCE. We, the OSCE, were in fact the first international organization to send an investigative team to Ukraine, and the first to establish and declare that war crimes in Ukraine were in fact committed by the Russian Federation. These crimes have been documented and this evidence has been turned over to various other organizations to determine responsibility. We did it again, using the so-called “Moscow mechanism” and sending a second investigative team, which also established the facts of probable crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine. So we did a lot of work. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights continues, from the very beginning of the war until today, to document and preserve evidence of war crimes and other crimes or, I would say, violations of international human rights law. All are registered and sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine and other bodies, which will then investigate these crimes. I think it’s no secret that the UN Commission of Inquiry is now the main mechanism that manages the process of bringing to justice. It is also clear that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine is likely to be the body responsible for prosecuting the vast majority of these cases. So far, more than sixty thousand war crimes have been established. The ICC will obviously only consider a fraction of this number, but probably only a small fraction. And then we will have to see if the decision of the international community to establish some kind of special tribunal will take place.

DG: There is a specific question about a particular crime. UN experts have published new evidence that Russia is abducting Ukrainian children from Ukrainian territory and carrying out their Russification. What can the international community and the OSCE do to stop this crime?

MK: This is one of the most heinous and barbaric crimes among the many and very different crimes that Russia is committing in Ukraine. And we are determined to help document the cases of children who have been separated from their families, illegally or forcibly deported across the border to Russia. This, in my opinion, is another example of Russia’s desire to erase Ukrainian sovereignty from the face of the earth, ridding itself of all traces of Ukrainian national identity. We in the OSCE have just created a new support program for Ukraine, which is based inside that country, because, as you remember, Russia vetoed the previous mission on field. So we had to find a way to create a mission that Russia couldn’t veto, and we did it now. And it will be one of the priorities of this mission, and of the OSCE as a whole, to determine how we can help the Ukrainian authorities to develop some sort of process for registering all these illegal deportations so that these children can eventually be reunited with their families.

DG: You have just mentioned the Russian veto. But Russia has in fact violated every major OSCE document that was signed by Moscow in the 1970s and 1990s. Shouldn’t Russia just be kicked out of the OSCE, at least until stop its aggression against Ukraine and withdraw its troops from all Ukrainian territory?

MK: I certainly sympathize with that position, and God is my witness that everything Russia has done in the past 11 months certainly deserves much tougher action than simply expelling from the OSCE. However, as you pointed out, the organization was created in the early 1990s, and at that time there was no provision to exclude or suspend the membership of any country without consent of the majority of the members of the organization. It should be a “minus one” consensus, ie the consensus of all except the country that is excluded. Unfortunately, we do not have such a consensus, since Belarus, also a member of the OSCE, helps Russia and contributes to its war of aggression – therefore the formal mechanism of expelling Russia cannot be activated. But the tools we have are actually very important, because unlike the Council of Europe, which expelled Russia and therefore no longer has the tools to hold Russia accountable, we do not have the tools to oust Russia – but we succeeded in isolating Russia and Belarus within the organisation. And if you look at the results of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting last December, you will see that the OSCE unanimously condemned Russia and Belarus. Therefore, we have succeeded in isolating these two countries and we will continue to do so. This has certain advantages in terms of sending diplomatic signals condemning their actions practically every week. And at the end of the day, I think everyone thinks that what Russia has done is not just a violation of certain OSCE rules or procedures, but, in fact, the destruction of all the fundamental commitments on which the OSCE is founded.

DG: If we continue on the subject of international organizations, then Russia is also using the UN Security Council to block any attempt to hold it responsible for the aggression against Ukraine. In your opinion, is it possible to deprive Russia of its seat on the UN Security Council for all these crimes against world order and security committed by its leaders?

MK: I am not an expert on UN issues, since I am of course an ambassador to the OSCE, but, like here, it is just as difficult to imagine a mechanism in the UN that would allow the Russia to be expelled from the Security Council. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and work with our like-minded people to hold Russia accountable. As I mentioned, there are various ideas about courts, and the ICC is, of course, active in war crimes cases. There are other ways to hold Russia accountable. We could possibly consider paying reparations from Russia for all the damage it has caused. There are other ways to use international organizations and the international system to hold Russia to account than simply excluding Russia from all the various bodies in which it participates. And I will just give you an example of the OSCE, because I know it better: sometimes it is very useful to be able to interact in our organization with countries and regions such as Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Moldova , the Western Balkans, which are actively participating in our efforts vis-à-vis Russia, rather than simply dismantling the organization and working with NATO and the EU – they certainly have their own tasks, which are very important, but it is useful to work with other countries on the periphery of Russia. And if you got rid of Russia in the OSCE, then potentially the whole organization could cease to exist, and that would be very bad. So we diplomats need to be creative about new mechanisms we can use to hold Russia accountable and support Ukraine. So far, I think we’re doing pretty well.

DG: Russia has also turned into a complete dictatorship inside the country, as evidenced by various international organizations. Today, the level of suppression of civil society has returned to what it was in Soviet times. Is there a real option for the OSCE, which also has the function of monitoring respect for human rights, to help Russian political prisoners in one way or another, in particular, through example, Alexei Navalny, whose conditions of detention have again deteriorated? What could the United States do in this case?

MK: Now, in this field, we have to act according to the same scenarios that we followed in the Soviet era. Unfortunately, most of the terms we used in Soviet times are used again today: totalitarianism, the use of mental hospitals to suppress dissidents, the destruction of civil society. All of this is happening in contemporary Russia right now – just as it was decades ago in the Soviet Union. So we need to revive some of the tools we used back then. As you remember, one of the most important things the CSCE did in the 1970s and 1980s was to draw attention to the cases of dissidents unjustly imprisoned in the Soviet system. Andrei Sakharov, for example, was grateful to the Helsinki Movement for continuing to remind him of his cause. And we do the same with the cases of Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Ilya Yashin and all the other political prisoners who have been imprisoned for simply exercising their fundamental rights, for simply telling the truth about the Russia’s war against Ukraine, and not for anything else. Unfortunately, they are now being punished with solitary confinement, terrible prison conditions, long prison sentences, which once again resemble Soviet repressions and totalitarianism – now, in 2023! It’s incredible, but we must use all the tools to shed light on the fate of these people, not to forget them, to constantly talk about their deeds, to elevate their deeds and to hope that in the near future circumstances will change and that they will be released. .

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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