Switzerland thanks Albania, France and the United States as well as Ukraine for the organization of this meeting which we co-sponsor. We also thank the speakers for their presentations.
Switzerland is alarmed by the fact that in recent years the abhorrent practice of abducting children during armed conflicts has only increased, as illustrated by the reports of the Secretary-General. Behind the numbers lie personal stories: children abducted in Nigeria while searching for firewood, or in Colombia, Myanmar or Somalia to be recruited as child soldiers. These are but a few examples. In the context of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, deportations of children within the occupied territories and to Russia have been documented by independent investigations. Many parents do not know where their children are or how to contact them.
We therefore welcome the attention given to measures to ensure accountability and prevent these crimes. We wish to comment on three points in this regard:
First, international law affords special protection to children. It must be respected. Deportations and illegal transfers are serious violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore constitute war crimes. In addition, there are specific rules defining the framework of possible evacuations of children to a foreign country by a party to the conflict according to the First Additional Protocol. Furthermore, the personal status of children must not be modified by the occupying power, which must ensure that they remain in contact with their families. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified almost universally, obliges States Parties to protect the right to identity and the right of the child to remain with his or her parents. Switzerland calls on all parties in all armed conflicts to respect their obligations under international law. We regret that this is clearly not the case in all contexts at present.
Second, without justice, there will be no prevention. Independent and impartial investigations are the basis for the fight against impunity. Switzerland underlines the importance of the work of independent international commissions of inquiry. The Commission on Ukraine has detailed cases of forced transfers and deportations of children. Together with 45 other states, Switzerland has also invoked the Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE, which also deals with this issue. We welcome the investigations conducted by the International Criminal Court and reiterate our support for this independent and impartial judicial institution. It had notably issued two warrants of arrest for war crimes of illegal deportation and transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia.
Third, the tools of this Council’s “Children and Armed Conflict” agenda must be used to end and prevent grave violations against children. The annexes to the Secretary-General’s report on children in armed conflict play a central deterrent role in this respect. The Council included in 2015 abduction as a grave violation for which parties to armed conflict must be listed. All those who commit these grave violations must be included in this list. We welcome the guidance note on abductions issued last year by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNICEF. We call on all parties to armed conflict to adopt concrete measures to prevent and stop abductions. Furthermore, the UN must be able to continue to engage with all parties to conflict – whether they are state and non-state actors - to develop action plans to end and prevent violations against children.
The best protection for children is peace. Armed conflicts and their devastating effects on children - on their education, their mental and physical health, and even their lives - must be brought to an end everywhere in the world. To this end, Switzerland also calls on Russia to cease all combat operations and to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory without delay.
More than 20 years ago, the Security Council recognized the issue of children and armed conflict as a critical issue of peace and security. We must do everything to protect children affected by the horrors of war. Switzerland remains committed to this goal.