The conflict zone: minors at war, trafficking, and sexual slavery

The third episode of the new program of the Black Sea TV Company prepared jointly with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Ukraine remains at the same “risk zone” for the third consecutive year. Our state is listed among the countries, where governments are trying to put an end to human trafficking, but these efforts are insufficient. Occupied Donbas impress by the number of violations over the past two years: sexual traffic and women slave labor, involvement of minors in war, children trafficking. Are such crimes investigated and how the law protects victims?

We have a new category of people – children-combatants, i.e. children-soldiers. Oksana Veselova, People’s Deputy of Ukraine, why we have so many violations of children’s rights:

‘Our government does not exercise its powers on the uncontrolled by Ukraine territories of Donbas run by terrorist organizations, so this is a zone where the laws of Ukraine are completely violated, they do not work there. Our country can affect it in the only way – to create conditions that provide the opportunity to families with children to leave the area, to arrange educational programmes for children to escape the area.’

So whatever amendment to legislation concerning the military conflict we make, they would have no effect on the uncontrolled territory.

‘Certain changes are needed, also in the Ukrainian legislation, as there is no concept of “a military conflict”. We cannot stop the war at once, but our government should gather the facts because some of these cases – the involvement of children in armed groups – are classified as war crimes. We collected about 30 cases that could fall under the term “war crime” under Article 8 of the Rome Statute,’ said Serhiii Burov, Head of the Educational Direction of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

In addition, there is a question of how we can protect children in sport and defense camps on the uncontrolled territory.

‘In fact, these camps exist on the territory controlled by Ukraine as well. It is a very blurred line between patriotic and militarized camps. There are camps, where children are taught to collect and dismantle guns, to mine and delouse territory. It should not be allowed on the controlled territory; these cases should be monitored on the uncontrolled territory and criminal proceedings should be opened’, said Serhii Burov.

However, these are not the only crimes that occur on the uncontrolled territories.

‘In the occupied Donbas, there are human trafficking, sexual slavery of children. The law refers to the crimes particularly seriously, if victims are children’, says lawyer Vadym Tsabeka.

But are there cases of bringing to criminal justice?’

‘There are sentences in Ukraine, but we do not know what is happening on the occupied territories’, says Vadym Tsabeka.

Details of the topic in theThe conflict zone joint project of the Black Sea TV channel and the Ukrainian Helsinki Union. Oksana Veselova, People’s Deputy of Ukraine, Serhii Burov, Head of the Educational Direction of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, and lawyer Vadym Tsabeka are guests of the studio of Oksana Shchyrba.

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