The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Russia should not discriminate children from vulnerable groups

A joint press-release of ADC Memorial Brussels and International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia

Upon consideration of Russia’s state report at its 95th session in January 2024, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued recommendations to Russia with harsh criticism of violations of children’s rights. The Committee took into account reports from civil society, including a joint report by ADC Memorial and the Kharkiv Human Rights Group.

The Committee recognized Russia’s responsibility for the crimes committed during the armed aggression against Ukraine leading to the killing and wounding of hundreds of children and is accompanied by grave violations such as arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture, sexualized violence against children in the occupied territory of Ukraine; attacks on hospitals, schools and educational institutions and the occupation of schools by Russian armed forces, limiting access to education for millions of children. The Committee paid special attention to children living on the temporarily occupied territories and those abducted by Russian forces: the deprivation of children of Ukrainian citizenship and the simplified assignment of Russian citizenship to them, breaking their ties with Ukraine and the denial of their Ukrainian identity was recognised as the violation of the Convention and international humanitarian law. For more information about the recommendations of the CRC on Ukrainian children, see the joint press release of ADC Memorial and the Kharkiv Human Rights Group.

There are also important recommendations of the UN CRC related to children from other vulnerable groups.

In particular, the Committee reiterated the recommendation to guarantee appropriate living conditions, social protection, housing, nutrition, access to health care and education for all children, with special attention to vulnerable groups. The Committee highlighted the problems of Roma settlements and called for measures to legalize houses, end demolishing homes and evicting their residents, and, if this is unavoidable, to provide alternative housing and compensation for the affected families and children. The Committee recommended that Roma settlements should be provided with basic resources, in particular, gas and electricity supply.

For indigenous children, guarantees of appropriate living conditions should include the preservation of a natural environment, the opportunity to lead a traditional lifestyle and use natural resources on ancestral lands, as well as access to traditional nutrition. Pointing to the vulnerability of indigenous communities to the extractive industry, the Committee called on the Russian authorities to create a clear regulatory framework and legal accountability for industries, especially in the oil, gas and coal mining industries, so that their activities would not have negative impact on human rights and jeopardize environmental, sanitary, labor and other standards, especially those related to the rights of children, including the rights of indigenous children. Companies should be required to conduct assessments, consultations and full public disclosure of information about the impact of their business activities on the environment, health and rights of children and their plans to eliminate such impacts.

The Committee, repeating its recommendation on the previous report of the Russian Federation, called for improving medical facilities and services in remote settlements of indigenous communities; promote traditional lifestyles, traditional economic activities of indigenous communities, including hunting and fishing, ensure traditional diets; preserve the cultural and linguistic identity and heritage of indigenous children, ensure access to schools and – when it’s possible – basic education in their native languages.

The Сommittee is concerned about the general militarization of the school environment, which affects all schoolchildren, and especially Ukrainian children taken to Russia, as well as the fact that Russian curriculum has been introduced in the occupied territories of Ukraine, it is reported that teachers are forced to express active support and impose on children positive attitude towards the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as refrain from criticizing the Russian authorities. Noting violations of the rights to education in their native language in Crimea, the Committee called for ensuring the right of children to study in Ukrainian and Crimean (Crimean Tatar) languages and to use these languages freely.

The Committee called for an end to the politicization and militarization of schools and the rewriting of school curriculum in favor of the political and militaristic agenda. The Committee believes that education should prepare children for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin. The Committee pointed out that children should be able to freely express their opinions and enjoy freedom of assembly and association, while forcing them to join ideological pro-government organizations such as the Movement of the First and Yunarmia is unacceptable.

The Committee called for ensuring access to education without discrimination of any kind, in particular, abolishing the requirement of registration for children of migrant workers to gain access to schools and ensuring the right to attend schools during the entire period of stay of migrant children in the Russian Federation.

The Committee condemned repressions against civil society in Russia, including the tightening of legislation on “foreign agents” and laws persecuting LGBTI+; in particular, the Committee called for the repeal of the “law on LGBT-propaganda” and the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to recognize LGBTI+ people as belonging to the “extremist community”. The Committee pointed out that in practice these legislative innovations are destroying the lives of LGBTI+ children and children from LGBTI+ families.

The UN CRC is concerned about violations of children’s rights in closed institutions and within the facilities of law enforcement agencies, including reports of inhuman treatment, torture, violence and the fabrication of criminal charges against LGBT children in the North Caucasus. Experts called to end such common in the Caucasus region practices as femicide, killings in the name of so-called “honour”, child marriage, abduction of women and girls for forced marriage, polygamy, and female genital mutilations. The Committee called for special protective schemes for victims and awareness-raising campaigns explaining the harmful effects of these practices to the general public, local authorities, religious leaders, judges and prosecutors.