Joint Statement on behalf of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania at the Security Council briefing on Ukraine: Sexual violence and trafficking in human beings

Delivered by H.E. Andrejs Pildegovičs, Permanent Representative of Latvia

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Baltic states – Estonia, Lithuania, and my own country – Latvia.

Let me start by thanking Albania for organizing this briefing and the distinguished briefers for their statements. We particularly welcome the voice of the Ukrainian civil society at the Council. It is of utmost importance to keep our focus on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Mr. President,

We are deeply alarmed by the shocking reports on brutal and systematic sexual violence perpetrated by Russian armed forces in Ukraine, and concerned about the increasing risk for trafficking in human beings in the region. We recall that the Council in its Resolution 1820 (2008) demanded the immediate and complete cessation by parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect. We reiterate this demand to Russian Federation: stop immediately the sexual violence perpetrated by your armed forces in Ukraine. To ensure this, clear orders must be issued through chains of command prohibiting sexual violence and perpetrators brought to justice. Ultimately, Russia must immediately stop its military aggression, enabled by its accomplice Belarus, immediately and unconditionally withdraw all forces from the entire territory of Ukraine, and fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders, as demanded by UNGA resolution of 2nd March.

Mr. President,

We welcome the recent visit of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Ms Pramila Patten to Ukraine and the framework of cooperation signed with the government of Ukraine. We look forward and encourage support to its implementation. After her visit, SRSG assessed that sexual violence committed by the Russian Armed Forces is raising “all the red flags”. We call on the relevant UN entities to continue to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine and at its borders, including regarding conflict-related sexual violence through the mechanisms created by the Security Council. Recording and verification of violations by the UN as well as other international actors is crucial.

Current situation provides a fertile ground for human traffickers. We commend the creation of the EUROPOL taskforce to protect vulnerable Ukrainian refugees from human trafficking networks. We have to carefully approach the situation to avoid instances where predators can exploit the chaos. Here UN entities play a significant role but so do actors from the civil society.

 

We condemn in the strongest possible terms unlawful the deportation of Ukrainian residents, in particular forced deportation of unaccompanied children, to the Russian Federation by the Russian authorities and their local collaborators, as well as the illegal adoption of Ukrainian children. These actions grossly violate international law and the UN Charter, and undermine international security and stability.

Mr. President,

We commend Ukrainian women for their bravery and resilience in light of Russia’s aggression, and their role in humanitarian, political and military response. We need decisive and vigorous action to ensure meaningful participation of women and girls, including from the most vulnerable groups, in all decision-making processes related to the crisis response and peace. Women must not to be seen as victims, but as the force of change.

In resolution 2467 (2019) the Council recognized the need for a survivor-centered approach in responding to sexual violence in conflict, including access to medical and psychosocial care. It is of utmost importance that the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine have the opportunity to report cases as soon as possible and to receive proper assistance, including access to comprehensive services, including sexual and reproductive health services. However, at the moment reporting is possible only after survivors move to a safe area outside of territories occupied by Russian forces or where active hostilities are taking place.

The Baltic states have welcomed tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. We make sure that the human rights of the survivors of sexual violence are at the heart of our response. We follow standards for the safe and effective documentation and recording of survivors’ experiences – respecting their rights regarding dignity, privacy, and health.

Mr. President,

We recall that the Council has clearly reaffirmed its intention to continue forcefully to fight impunity and uphold accountability for sexual violence. The Baltic states have taken several practical steps to call the aggressor to account for atrocities in Ukraine. We have joined the referral to the International Criminal Court of the situation in Ukraine to enable the Prosecutor open investigations into allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated in Ukraine. In order to facilitate investigations and prosecutions before the International Criminal Court, the Baltic states have nominated national experts and provided voluntary contributions. Our prosecutors, alongside those of Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, and the International Criminal Court have formed the Joint Investigation Team.

In conclusion, we commend the efforts of UN bodies, non-governmental organizations and members of civil society working on the ground in Ukraine providing services to survivors of sexual violence and trafficking. Security and access of these workers is crucial to alleviate the immeasurable human suffering that Russia’s unprovoked war is causing.

I thank you.