On 16 March 2023, Ambassador Bush delivered a speech in Vienna in which he commended the work of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in highlighting the terrible human cost of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
He expressed his gratitude to Director Meccaci and ODIHR staff for their monitoring initiative, which provides valuable reporting of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights abuses in the course of the invasion.
The December 2022 report by ODIHR shed light on alleged forced transfers and child deportation by the Russian authorities, including a newly simplified procedure to grant Ukrainian children without parental care Russian citizenship, opening a route to their ‘legal’ adoption by Russian families.
The report shared accounts of parents in Kherson who had accepted an offer from the Russian authorities to send their children for a “short holiday” to escape the war in illegally annexed Crimea, who now cannot communicate with their children or bring them back home.
The fact that the true scale of how many Ukrainian children have been affected by these Russian policies is unknown is truly horrifying.
Ambassador Bush also expressed his gratitude to ODIHR for their support to the three Moscow Mechanism reports last year.
The reports exposed IHL and human rights violations in Ukraine and the link between internal repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia and the unbridled aggression and horrific atrocities Russia is inflicting on Ukraine.
ODIHR’s unwavering support for human rights defenders across the OSCE region, particularly in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, and those forced to live in exile has been vitally important.
The Human Dimension Implementation Meetings (HDIM) are an essential part of the work of the human dimension, to hold OSCE participating States to account for the commitments they have agreed to, and to provide a safe space for civil society to share their concerns.
However, Russia has sought to flagrantly undermine the successful functioning of the human dimension and HDIM over a number of years.
The UK hopes that a full HDIM will be held this year and underscores the importance of ensuring the OSCE’s human dimension institutions are adequately funded.
Ambassador Bush expressed his support for ODIHR’s election observation methodology, which recognises an election is a process – not just an event – and considers the key elements of participating States’ electoral systems.
The UK also fully supports ODIHR’s activity to strengthen gender equality institutions and increase women’s participation in politics and electoral processes.
Director Mecacci closed the tragic events in Ukraine caused by Russia’s aggression, which only reinforces the truth that lies at the heart of ODIHR’s work.
The UK offers ODIHR its full support as they continue their invaluable work.