The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, has released a comprehensive report detailing the extensive human rights violations and war crimes committed by Russian authorities during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The report sheds light on the widespread use of torture, wilful killings, sexual violence, and the alarming issue of children being kidnapped and transferred from Ukraine to Russia.

According to the Commission’s findings, Russian armed forces have engaged in indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, resulting in numerous casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The report also confirms previous conclusions that the Russian authorities have employed torture in a widespread and systematic manner, subjecting both civilians and prisoners of war to horrific treatment.

One of the most disturbing aspects highlighted in the report is the kidnapping and transfer of Ukrainian children to areas under Russian control. The Commission investigated the case of 46 children from the Kherson Regional Children’s Home who were transferred to Crimea on the orders of Russian authorities in October 2022. Despite claims by Russian officials that the children were being evacuated for safety reasons, the majority of these children have not been returned to Ukrainian government-controlled territories as of November 2023.

The issue of kidnapped Ukrainian children has been previously raised by various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) before United Nations bodies. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Save the Children, and Human Rights Without Frontiers have repeatedly called attention to this alarming problem, urging the international community to take action to ensure the safe return of these children to their families and homeland. Human Rights Without Frontiers, in particular, has been vocal in denouncing the kidnapping of Ukrainian children, presenting evidence and testimonies to UN human rights bodies and advocating for the protection of these vulnerable individuals.

The report also documents cases of rape and sexual violence committed by Russian forces against women and girls, some as young as 15 years old. These crimes have left survivors with long-lasting trauma, stigmatization, and feelings of shame, with some victims facing blame and stigma from their own communities.

The Commission’s findings underscore the urgent need for accountability and justice for the victims of these heinous crimes. The report calls upon the Russian Federation to immediately cease all acts of violence against civilians and prisoners of war, end the use of torture, and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable in accordance with international human rights standards.

The international community must take decisive action to address the human rights crisis in Ukraine and support efforts to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice. The kidnapping of children, in particular, requires immediate attention and cooperation from all nations to ensure their safe return and rehabilitation.

As the conflict in Ukraine continues, it is crucial that the voices of victims and survivors are heard and that their rights are protected. The work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine serves as a vital step towards achieving accountability and preventing further atrocities from occurring in this devastating conflict. The tireless efforts of NGOs like Human Rights Without Frontiers in raising awareness about the plight of kidnapped children and advocating for their rights must be recognized and supported by the international community.

CAP Freedom of Conscience is a secular European NGO with United Nations Consultative Status, created in 1995 and dedicated to protect the Right of Freedom of Religion and Belief. CAP Freedom of Conscience combats all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief by alerting European and International bodies. CAP Freedom of Conscience collects testimonies of discrimination and human rights violations affecting religious or belief communities in order to disseminate them to international bodies, and in order to raise awareness and inform them as well as to generate debate on the protection of Freedom of Religion and Belief. CAP Freedom of Conscience also advocates for any religious or spiritual group facing discrimination to have their right to Freedom of Religion and Belief recognized.

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