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Forcefully displaced Ukrainians: a blind spot addressed by the Migration Committee

"As a human rights defender for 20 years, I would have never imagined myself working on war crimes in my country. No one chooses where he or she was born but we all have a choice whether we want to be active against human rights violations or remain indifferent to it. I chose not to be indifferent. " Oleksandra Matviichuk, 2022 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights lawyer, told the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons in an exchange of views held on 26 January 2023.

This moving and precise testimony took place in the context of the preparation of a report on “The situation of Ukrainian persons forcefully displaced or transferred to the Russian Federation or Ukrainian territories under the de facto control of the Russian Federation” for which Paolo Pisco (Portugal, SOC) is the rapporteur.

Ms Matviichuk underlined how difficult it is to get specific figures and receive information once persons have crossed the border. While the Ukrainian civil society works closely with Russian volunteers, human rights defenders, and independent journalists to address cases, solid and analytical data is missing.

She highlighted the specific situation of forcibly displaced children, particularly poorly investigated and documented, and provided concrete cases where children are being used as a propaganda tool to erase Ukrainian identity. The fact that children are being forcibly adopted in Russia is also a cause for deep concern. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate urged PACE to request UN agencies and ICRC to engage further in evacuating safely these children from the Russian Federation.

Concluding her address, Ms Matviichuk pointed out that 31,000 episodes of war crimes had been documented so far. Recalling that each case and each people deserve justice, she called for a hybrid international mechanism to work with national investigators in addition to the special international tribunal.