OSCE report related the deportation of children: the violation of the right to identity is finally receiving due attention
On May 4, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) presented “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”.
The document states that the Russian Federation has violated a number of international norms, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC):
“The Mission moreover concluded that the practice of the forcible transfer and/or deportation of Ukrainian children to the temporarily occupied territories and to the territory of the Russian Federation may amount to a crime against humanity of “deportation or forcible transfer of population”. The Mission concluded that numerous and overlapping violations of the rights of the children deported to the Russian Federation have taken place. Not only has the Russian Federation manifestly violated the best interests of these children repeatedly, it has also denied their right to identity, their right to family, their right to unite with their family as well as violated their rights to education, access to information, right to rest, leisure, play, recreation and participation in cultural life and arts as well as right to thought, conscience and religion, right to health, and the right to liberty and security.“
It is important that, in addition to recognizing the crime of “deportation of Ukrainian children”, the OSCE notes that Russia violates children’s rights to identity – through changing citizenship, sending children to Russian families, re-education in accordance with Russian culture, imposing the Russian language, Russian cultural values, etc. p.
Emphasis on the fact that there have not been able to establish any steps undertaken by the Russian Federation to preserve the identities of the Ukrainian children who have been deported to Russia from Ukraine.
It is extremely valuable for our organization that in order to substantiate this violation, the OSCE refers to the analytical materials of the CCE “Almenda”, which have been handed over to the OSCE mission. In particular, the Report references he analytical material from the CCE “Almenda”: “The system of destroying the identity of children at the TOT” which stipulates that :
“The mission received serious accusations that the Russian Federation seriously and repeatedly violated the right of children who were deported from Ukraine to Russia to identity, which is also confirmed in the reports of other international mechanisms.“
Therefore, we propose to consider in more detail how the OSCE is constructing an argumentconcerning violation of the right to identity.
Purposeful re-education of children by Russia in the occupied territories
“The Mission received information suggesting that during their (means Ukrainian children) stay in the temporarily occupied territories and, especially, in the territory of the Russian Federation, Ukrainian children are exposed to pro-Russian information campaigns often amounting to targeted re-education. Not only do they attend Russian schools where teaching takes place according to the Russian curricula, but they also have to manifest pro-Russian feelings, for instance by singing the anthem of the Russian Federation. (source “The ‘Crimea scenario’: how the Russian Federation is destroying the Ukrainian identity of children in the occupied territories”)
Forcing to speak Russian, imposing the idea that the Ukrainian language is a dialect of Russian
The Mission has received credible and consistent testimony that children who have been either sent to the so-called recreation camps or separated from their parents at filtration and subsequently find themselves in social care institutions of the Russian Federation or in foster care arrangements are consistently required to speak Russian (source “The Russian system of destroying the identity of children in the TOT”), to attend Russian language lessons and even taught that Ukrainian and Belorussian are mere dialects of Russian.
This appears a blanket requirement irrespective of whether the child is Russian speaking or not. Moreover, although many of the Ukrainian children speak Russian as their mother tongue, there are important cultural differences that still prevail which appear to have been ignored entirely by the Russian Federation. Notably, the national and political identities of such children have not been respected.
“Patriotic education”, the imposition of the idea that “Ukraine has always been and is a part of Russia” through education
“The Mission was presented with credible reports of the so-called “patriotic education” which includes requirements to sing the national anthem of Russia, usually daily, as well as take part in various lessons, geared towards changing children’s understanding of the history and geopolitical context of Ukraine and Russia. (source “The Russian system of destroying the identity of children in the TOT)
Thus, for example, Ukrainian children are obligated to take part in history lessons which present various historical facts in a light favourable to Russian Federation (source “The Russian system of destroying the identity of children in the TOT). Significantly, the underlying ethos of such lessons is the idea that Ukraine has always been a part of Russia and its rightful place is to be part of the Russian Federation”. (source “The Russian system of destroying the identity of children in the TOT)
The Report also mentions the situation on the temporarily occupied territories:
“In relation to the temporarily occupied territories, a significant factor contributing to this “patriotic education” is the fact that in 2020 all Ukrainian schools there were required to follow the standards of the Russian Federation and as of then, all educational institutions in the temporarily occupied territories switched to the educational standards of the Russian Federation”.
Сhange of the citizenship of Ukrainian children and placement in Russian families will have serious consequences for preserving the child’s identity
The Report qualifies change of the citizenship of Ukrainian children in the occupied territories and those taken to Russia as illegitimate:
“All these legislative acts pertaining to the change of the citizenship of Ukrainian children not only run counter Article 12 of the UNCRC obliging States to involve children in decision-making concerning the child or at least enable their participation and fulfilment of child’s right to be heard”
Change of the citizenship of Ukrainian children is also seen as a threat to the preservation of the child’s identity:
“This is also a profound violation of Article 8 of the UNCRC protecting child’s right to identity. As noted by the IICIU, the granting of Russian citizenship to such children and implementing various family placement measures “may have profound implication on a child’s identity” and thus constitutes a violation of Article 8 of the UNCRC”.
Russification of education – a violation of the right to education of Ukrainian children taken to the Russian Federation
The Report states that children are subject to Russian education standard, which are aimed at “patriotic education” in the spirit of Russian values:
“There are also credible reports on special measures taken to ensure an education of Ukrainian children that is ‘patriotic’ towards Russia. It is therefore evident that the approach to education of the Ukrainian children by the Russian authorities violates these children’s right to education as set out in Articles 28 and 29 of the UNCRC”.
Military education and militarization of children through school education and/or an after-school activity
The Report also separately mentions the militarization of children and the imposition of Russian youth military-patriotic organizations. These practices may constitute a violation of their right to rest and leisure.
About military education and militarization.
“There is also credible evidence of military training, involving not only lessons about the military personalities of the Russian Federation, but also drills and even learning how to assemble weapons” (source “The Russian system of destroying the identity of children in the TOT”).
The OSCE emphasizes that it has received the information concerning the allegations of violations of children’s rights under Article 31 of the UNCRC.
“As already noted above, the children are commonly subjected to military education, which extends to their leisure time as part of the mainstream education and/or an after-school activity, (source “The Russian system of destroying the identity of children in the TOT), which bear the hallmarks of “compulsory or enforced games” as stipulated by the CRC”.
Forcing children to join Russian youth organizations.
Moreover, there is evidence that children are required to join youth organizations such as military patriotic clubs of various cities and “Cossack Cadet Corps”.
Moreover, the OSCE emphasizes that it has not established a single instance when even an element of Ukrainian culture would have been allowed by the Russian authorities. The Mission thus concludes that the children’s rights under Article 31 of the UNCRC have been violated.
The Moscow Mechanism is a formal procedure within the OSCE that allows the deployment of an independent international mission to investigate information on human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. The result of the mission's work is a report with recommendations that will contribute to the prosecution of the guilty in national and international courts or tribunals. This mechanism is called "Moscow" because it was approved at the Conference on the Human Dimension of the OSCE held in 1991 in Moscow. In March 2023, 45 OSCE participating states activated the "Moscow Mechanism" to investigate the deportation of Ukrainian children by Russia.