Today at the 4th Summit of the Council of Europe, Heads of State and Government from the organisation’s 46 member states have adopted a Declaration on the situation of children of Ukraine as part of the Reykjavik Declaration “United around our values”. The Summit hosted by the Icelandic Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has been a historic opportunity for European leaders to reaffirm their common commitment to the Council of Europe’s core values and to refocus its mission in the light of new threats to human rights, including to the rights of the child, and democracy, and to further support its member State Ukraine through concrete measures to help achieve justice for the victims of the Russian aggression.
Condemning in the strongest possible terms the large-scale abuses and violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of children of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, the European leaders called on the Russian Federation to immediately release all civilians forcibly transferred or unlawfully deported to the territory of the Russian Federation or to areas temporarily controlled or occupied by the Russian Federation, in particular children. They affirmed their commitment to fight against the impunity of perpetrators of crimes committed against children, including the deportation of children, by continuing their support for international and national jurisdictions investigating these crimes.
The European leaders further underlined the need to intensify efforts, at all levels of governance, to guarantee the effective protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of children of Ukraine in the current context in full compliance with the applicable Council of Europe standards, as well as the highest possible standard of reception and care of children of Ukraine hosted in other member states. In order to ensure that the best interest of the child is the primary consideration for the repatriation of children who have been displaced from Ukraine, Heads of State and Government pledged to assist the Ukrainian authorities to implement a comprehensive reform of the child protection and care system, in due respect of the rights of the child. Furthermore, they emphasised their commitment to work with the international community and to support the Ukrainian authorities to ensure the immediate return to Ukraine of children who have been unlawfully transferred and deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation, Belarus or to the areas temporarily controlled or occupied by the Russian Federation.
The European leaders also called on the Council of Europe to facilitate co-operation between states, the European Union, and relevant international organisations, through an appropriate mechanism, in order to exchange information on legal and policy frameworks regarding the situation, status and needs of children from Ukraine residing in its member states; advise on the reform of the Ukrainian child protection and care system, facilitate the sharing of relevant information and, as far as possible, the co-ordination of measures taken with regard to the best interests of the children of Ukraine.