OSCE CiO Warsaw Human Dimension Conference Warsaw, 26 September – 7 October 2022

EU statement – Plenary session 8 Humanitarian Issues

1. We cannot stress enough that abiding by international humanitarian law is not optional. The EU remains gravely concerned regarding the ongoing human rights and humanitarian impacts of Russia’s brutal and illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, supported by Belarus, which we condemn in the strongest terms. The two Moscow Mechanisms expert missions found clear patterns of serious violations of IHL and IHRL attributable mostly to the Russian Armed Forces. The magnitude and frequency of the indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects is credible evidence that hostilities were conducted by the Russian Armed Forces disregarding their fundamental obligation to comply with the basic principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that constitute the fundamental basis of IHL. The events concerning the towns of Bucha and Irpin - visited by the experts - are emblematic examples of grave breaches of IHL under the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols and are under investigation by the ICC as war crimes. We are deeply shocked by the mass graves recently discovered by the Ukrainian authorities in Izyum. The EU supports all measures to ensure accountability for human rights and IHL violations and we call on all participating States to do likewise. We commend the tireless efforts and contributions of civil society, media actors and human rights defenders to this end.

2. The EU notes with profound regret that asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced persons continue to face grave risks of human trafficking and exploitation in the OSCE region. We condemn the instrumentalization of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees as a tool for political pressure. It is deplorable that the number of people belonging to these vulnerable groups has dramatically increased over the past years, and especially following Russia’s war in Ukraine.
3. Today, Europe is undergoing the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Millions of Ukrainians, as well as people of other nationalities, have been forced to flee the country, while millions of others have become internally displaced or are being forcibly deported by Russian authorities. Displaced persons may have limited access to education, financial resources or opportunities for income generation, which provides a fertile environment for human trafficking and exploitation. The overwhelming majority of those fleeing the conflict are women and children and thus vulnerable to risks of gender based violence, exploitation and human trafficking. Applying a gender- and child-sensitive approach in assistance, support and protection of victims is crucial.
4. The EU has triggered the temporary protection directive for people fleeing the war in Ukraine, thus helping the refugees to settle, work, access education, receive services and integrate in the EU. The directive has been complemented by a Common Anti-Trafficking Plan, in an effort to address the risks of trafficking in human beings and to support potential victims. Trafficking in human beings is a serious organized crime and a grave human rights violation. The EU and its MS are committed to join forces to pursue an effective human rights based, victim centred, gender sensitive and age specific anti trafficking strategy.
5. We commend the civil society, first responders and national referral mechanisms, which have been essential in identifying and protecting vulnerable persons and victims and in providing support and assistance. A coordinated response between local, national and international authorities and civil society is necessary to address human trafficking in a comprehensive manner. We also thank the Office of the Special Representative and Coordinator for Combatting Trafficking and Human Beings for their timely recommendations, as well as ODIHR for their assistance.

The Candidate Countries REPUBLIC of NORTH MACEDONIA*, MONTENEGRO*, ALBANIA*, UKRAINE and REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA, the Potential Candidate Country GEORGIA, the EFTA countries ICELAND and LIECHTENSTEIN, members of the European Economic Area, as well as ANDORRA and SAN MARINO align themselves with this statement.
* Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.