The Human Rights Council decided to organize this week a Special Session to focus on the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression. Child Rights Connect and its members made a joint statement calling for the cease of hostilities, as well as for all domestic and international mechanisms currently documenting violations and investigating crimes in Ukraine to include child-specific expertise.

We welcome the convening of this Special Session. Nowhere is safe in Ukraine. Children are experiencing and are in grave danger of continued physical and emotional harm, and ultimately death.  

Children across Ukraine continue to bear the brunt of this conflict. After eight years of conflict, where thousands of children were already exposed to serious violations including attacks on their schools and infrastructure, 24 February marked a new era for the conduct of hostilities. As of 10 May, 3,459 civilian deaths had been verified, with actual numbers probably higher. 238 children have been killed, 347 injured. Around 126 education institutions have been destroyed and 1,509 damaged, according to the Ukrainian authorities.  

Shelling and airstrikes continue to intensify across the country and specifically in eastern regions. Indiscriminate attacks have disrupted essential services and children, including those that have been displaced, face increasing obstacles in meeting their basic and critical needs. 4.3 million children have been displaced, with over 1.8 million having fled the country and 2.5 million internally displaced. This large-scale movement is disrupting the continued education of over 5.7 million children inside Ukraine, likely to trigger school dropouts and exacerbate negative coping mechanisms.  

Those that have not fled have been exposed to the most brutal of crimes. Human rights organisations, the United Nations and justice institutions have documented cases of torture, unlawful killing and sexual and gender-based violence against children. Within and outside Ukraine, many children are experiencing high levels of psychological distress. 

Those responsible for these serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of international human rights law perpetrated against children must be held to account 

  1. We call on the Human Rights Council and its member States to ensure the systematic inclusion of child rights and gender expertise in the work of the International Commission of Inquiry.  It is clear from past practice that inclusion of child-dedicated expertise significantly increases the visibility and public reporting of violations and crimes affecting children. We strongly encourage the support of other domestic, including the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s office or the Ukrainian Ombudsman, and international mechanisms currently documenting violations and investigating crimes in Ukraine to similarly embed child-specific expertise. 
  2. We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities. This is the only way to protect children from violence and other violations of their rights. While fighting is ongoing, all parties must adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, including by ensuring that civilians and civilian objects, especially hospitals and schools, are protected from attack in line with the international obligations and standards, including the Safe Schools Declaration. We recall the need for parties to prevent all of the six grave violations against children’s rights in conflict, as obliged by Security Council resolutions on children in armed conflict. 
  3. We call for full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to families caught up in the conflict. Humanitarian access in all conflict-affected areas of Ukraine is essential for assisting and protecting children. This includes the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance and support for the safe evacuation of children and their families from heavily conflict-affected areas. Children urgently need the provision of psychosocial support as well as access to services for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

 

Signatory organisations:  

  1. Child Rights Connect (ECOSOC status)
  2. Plan International, Inc. (ECOSOC status)
  3. Terre des Hommes International Federation (ECOSOC status)  
  4. Save the Children International (ECOSOC status) 
  5. Defence for Children International (ECOSOC status) 
  6. Make Mothers Matter (ECOSOC Status) 
  7. Child Rights International Network (CRIN) 
  8. Consortium for Street Children (ECOSOC status)  
  9. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion 
  10. ECPAT International (ECOSOC status) 
  11. Hope and Homes for Children
  12. Child Identity Protection
  13. Plataforma de Infancia