February 21, 2024

“Bring Kids Back UA” task force met to examine reports documenting the deportation and forcible displacement of Ukrainian children

The "Bring Kids Back UA” task force, co-chaired by the Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak and Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, held the second meeting via video conference.

The meeting was moderated by the co-chair, Baroness Helena Kennedy, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and focused on information sharing to enhance the Task Force members’ knowledge of the issue. It featured closed-door presentations of the most comprehensive reports to date on abduction and resulting Russian policies targeted at Ukrainian children. This allowed Task Force members to align on the facts, figures, and data about the deportation and return of Ukrainian children to deep dive into various options for mechanisms to return them.

Dr. Elīna Šteinerte, an OSCE Moscow Mechanism expert, presented the findings of the Report on Violations and Abuses of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, related to the Forcible Transfer and/or Deportation of Ukrainian Children to the Russian Federation.

Mr. Nathaniel Raymond, Executive Director of the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab, presented the findings of Yale’s Conflict Observatory in two reports: (1) Russia's Systematic Program for the Re-education and Adoption of Ukraine's Children; (2) Belarus’ Collaboration with Russia in the Systematic Deportation of Ukraine’s Children.

Before opening the discussion floor, Baroness Helena Kennedy stressed: “The findings presented today highlight serious violations of international law that demand immediate cessation. I commend the critical work of the OSCE Moscow Mechanism and the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab in shedding light on these pressing issues. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to reunite Ukrainian kids with their families and their communities.

The Task Force engages independent experts to develop human rights-based mechanisms for the return of thousands of Ukrainian children who were illegally deported to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The meeting was attended by Regents' Professor, Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, and Faculty Co-Director of Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law, former Special Adviser to the ICC Prosecutor on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict Diane Marie Amann, Secretary General of the Global Campus of Human Rights, Professor of International Human Rights at the University of Vienna, former Independent Expert leading the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Prof. Manfred Nowak, Executive Director at The Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security Shelly Whitman, Executive Director at the Collaborative on Global Children's Issues at Georgetown University Gillian Huebner, Director of the International and Constitutional Affairs Team at the Office of the Ombudsman for Children Agata Jasztal, former Commissioner for Children's Rights of Poland Mikołaj Pawlak, Conflict & Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Adviser at Save the Children UK Narmina Strishenets, Executive Director for the Ukraine Bureau, Global Affairs Canada Kati Csaba, Senior Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Head, Ukraine Standby Team, European Policy Centre Roxana Cristescu, Senior Child Rights Advocacy Advisor at Save the Children Kseniia Karahiaur, Political Adviser, Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine Ondrej Wagner, Founder and President of Yahad – In Unum, Professor at Georgetown University, Investigator Father Patrick Desbois, and Senior Lecturer at the Department of International and European Law, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Serhiy Petukhov.

From the Ukrainian side, the meeting was attended by Head of the Department for Protection of Children's Interests and Combating Violence of the Prosecutor General's Office Yulia Usenko, Representative of the Commissioner for Children's Rights Iryna Suslova, Head of the Coordination Center for Family Upbringing and Child Care Development Iryna Tuliakova, Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Vladyslav Vlasiuk.