November 21, 2023

Deportation of Ukrainian children: Toronto conference unites world leaders and experts in call for accountability

Yesterday, the world celebrated International Children's Day. 

On this very day, the "United for Justice: War Crimes against Ukrainian Children" conference in Toronto, Canada, convened global leaders and experts within the fields of justice and human rights. The primary objective of the event is the pursuit of accountability for Russian war crimes pertaining to the deportation and forcible displacement of Ukrainian children.

Leading experts from governmental and civil society sectors engaged in discussion to determine solutions aimed at halting the deportation and forced displacement of Ukrainian children by Russia. The discussions further center on facilitating the safe return of abducted children to their homes and ensuring that all parties responsible for war crimes against children are held accountable.

The deliberations placed particular emphasis on the imperative role of international support and collaboration, stressing the necessity of active participation from diverse stakeholders across various sectors and nations to make the return of children a reality.

The Ukrainian delegation was represented by the Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, Deputy Minister of Justice Iryna Mudra, Advisor - President's Commissioner for Children's Rights and Children's Rehabilitation Daria Gerasymchuk, People's Deputy Lesia Zaburanna, and the Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada Yulia Kovaliv.

In his opening remarks, the Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak stressed that the all-out Russia’s outlaw invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has led to widespread and systematic crimes against and affecting minors. “The extent, scope, and scale of these crimes will be determined over time. But the facts we have already, qualify for a diversity of war crimes and crimes against humanity. And possibly genocide”.

"Every child successfully returned to Ukraine is a victory. These victories are the result of heroic efforts by the Ukrainian state, international partners, and civil society. However, tens of thousands of children still remain in the hands of the enemy. We urgently need an effective international mechanism, powerful enough to stop this criminal policy of abducting Ukrainian children and ensure their return. We can do it, but only if we are united," said the Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin.

The Advisor-President's Commissioner for Children's Rights and Children's Rehabilitation emphasized: "Ukraine is committed to following the law and protecting children. We care about the safety of Ukrainian children and do everything possible to protect them, and we are ready to speak up for them when they are deprived of their own voice by the Russians. Only together can we do everything we can to protect the children of Ukraine today for the sake of every other child in the world tomorrow. After all, today they are the children of Ukraine, and tomorrow they can be any child in any country in the world."

"Only by joining the efforts of governments, international institutions, and civil society can we achieve our goal, both pursuing justice and bringing back the children", concluded the Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada Yulia Kovaliv.

The United for Justice Conference was co-organized by Massey College, the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, Global Affairs Canada, the Embassy of Ukraine in Canada and the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.

Global backing for seeking justice for Ukrainian children and their families continues to grow.