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Speech: Report by the Director of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR): UK response, March 2023

Director Mecacci, in closing the tragic events in Ukraine, caused by Russia’s aggression, only reinforces the truth that lies at the heart of ODIHR’s work. We see clearly how internal human rights violations and the absence of genuine democracy has spillover effects across the OSCE region. The UK offers ODIHR our full support as you continue your invaluable work. Thank you, Mr Chair. I would like to join others in welcoming Director Meccaci to the Permanent Council during this particularly grave time for human rights and international humanitarian law in the OSCE region. 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. ODIHR’s work has provided an invaluable opportunity for OSCE participating States to hear directly from civil society, including during the Warsaw Human Dimension conference and this week’s Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting. 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. The sad reality is that Russia has at every turn sought to flagrantly undermine the successful functioning of the human dimension and HDIM over a number of years. We hope that this year a full HDIM will be held, and underscore the importance of ensuring the OSCE’s human dimension institutions are adequately funded. ODIHR’s Monitoring Initiative has provided valuable reporting of violations of IHL and human rights abuses in the course of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  This monitoring and reporting is vital to capture and record the scale of violations taking place. The December report shed light on alleged forced transfers and child deportation by the Russian authorities. Exposing the harm caused by a decree adopted in May 2022 by President Putin, the report detailed the 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 we do not know the true scale of how many Ukrainian children have been affected by these Russian policies is truly horrifying. We continue to believe that strengthening our democratic institutions and practices is a continuous process, and ought to reflect the needs and interests of both men and women. 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 is excellent. We fully support ODIHR’s activity to strengthen gender equality institutions and increase women’s participation in politics and electoral processes – including through guides and toolkits focused on ‘Realising Gender Equality in Parliament’ and ‘Addressing Violence against Women in Politics in the OSCE Region’. We look forward to supporting ODIHR’s work with important elections coming up this year. We are grateful to ODIHR for their support to the three Moscow Mechanism reports last year. 45 participating States – supported by Ukraine – overwhelmingly united in the face of Russian aggression, triggered two Moscow Mechanism reports on IHL and human rights violations in Ukraine. And there is a clear link between internal repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia and the unbridled aggression and horrific atrocities Russia is inflicting on Ukraine – as outlined in the third Moscow Mechanism report last year. Director Meccaci, I am very grateful to you and your staff for the work of ODIHR, to highlight the terrible human cost of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Last week I spoke of relentless Russian shelling, Russia’s continued attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and the unspeakable cruelties many women and girls have suffered at the hands of Russian forces. Those responsible must be held to account.


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