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Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights Conference

Abduction of Ukrainian Children: Toronto Conference Convenes World Leaders and Experts to Call for Accountability and Justice

This week on International Children’s Day, we co-hosted the United for Justice Conference in Toronto, bringing together global leaders, experts in human rights and justice, and members of civil society to call for accountability for Russian war crimes and for the urgent and safe repatriation of abducted Ukrainian children. Our esteemed panellists highlighted the deportation and forced assimilation of over 19,000 Ukrainian children as well as other ongoing international crimes perpetrated by the Russian state. We were delighted that Mélanie Joly, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, used her opening remarks to announce that Canada will convene a new network dedicated to facilitating the safe return of abducted Ukrainian children. We will continue to advance justice for the people of Ukraine, including by calling for the use of targeted sanctions against Russian actors and by advocating for the freedom of leading Russian political prisoners, who are behind bars for speaking out against this war. To hold Putin accountable, we will also continue to advance the establishment of a special international tribunal for the crime of aggression committed in Ukraine.

“Children are not to be used as pawns in this war, and the Russian regime will be held to account for their actions.”

- Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs

"Every child successfully returned to Ukraine is a victory. These victories are the result of heroic efforts by the Ukrainian state, international partners, and civil society. However, tens of thousands of children still remain in the hands of the enemy. We urgently need an effective international mechanism, powerful enough to stop this criminal policy of abducting Ukrainian children and ensure their return. We can do it, but only if we are united."

- Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine

“What we’re talking about is children… When you see international humanitarian crimes perpetrated against children, it is incumbent upon all of us to act with clarity, to act with speed, and to act with focus. That’s what this kind of discussion allows us to do.”

- Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“We are situated today at a critical historical juncture. One road leads to division, war, and atrocities that shock the conscience of humankind. The other leads to unity and justice based on respect for human rights and the rule of international law.”

- Payam Akhavan, RWCHR Canadian Co-Chair, Human Rights Chair at Massey College, and Special Advisor on Genocide to the ICC Prosecutor

“Russia's continuing crime of aggression and its attending war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide are a standing injustice and threat to international peace and security. Justice for the Ukrainian people and accountability for international crimes must be a priority on our agenda as a matter of principle and policy.” - Irwin Cotler, Founder and International Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights

We are proud to have partnered with the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Global Affairs Canada, the Embassy of Ukraine in Canada, and Massey College (University of Toronto) in organizing this timely discussion. In their joint op-ed in the Globe and Mail, Payam Akhavan and Andriy Kostin outline some of the key ways Canada can support justice for Ukraine and its children - ideas that were discussed over the course of the conference. Thank you to all those who attended the United for Justice Conference, both in person and online. Click here for more information.

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