The Cognitive Development Society strongly condemns forcible transfer of children from their homes and families for political reasons. Instances of forcible removal represent an important international concern both in the Global North and Global South.
A recent example of these atrocities are the war crimes and human rights violations committed by Russia during its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, including violations against children. US Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken estimated in a statement from July 13, 2022 that “Russian authorities have interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, including 260,000 children, from their homes to Russia – often to isolated regions in the Far East.” Secretary Blinken’s statement continued, “Reports also indicate Russian authorities are deliberately separating Ukrainian children from their parents and abducting others from orphanages before putting them up for adoption inside Russia.” US ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter stated, “Children are a prime target in Russia’s social engineering effort in Ukraine. They are torn from their families by Russia and subjected to forced adoptions, re-education policies, and imposed Russian citizenship.”
The forcible transfer of civilians is prohibited under international humanitarian law. The forcible transfer of children from one group to another group can be an act of genocide when there is intent to destroy part or all of the targeted group. An international group of 30 experts, including legal scholars and genocide experts, issued a report in May 2022 stating there were reasonable grounds to conclude that Russia was guilty of inciting genocide and intent to commit genocide, in part due to the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia.
The Cognitive Development Society strongly condemns these horrific acts. We also wish to acknowledge that while these conflicts are globally prevalent, the legal protections and resources for those fleeing conflict can be uneven, and shaped by structural racism. We affirm that children everywhere should be protected from conflict-related violence and its effects. It is well known that the traumatic stress caused by exposure to these events and the psychological trauma caused by displacement impacts cognitive and social-emotional development. We stand with all victims of war crimes, and we denounce in the strongest terms violations of international humanitarian law and acts of genocide everywhere.
How to get involved
Donating to child-oriented international relief organizations such as:
- (i) Unicef https://www.unicefusa.org/
- (ii) CARE https://www.care.org/
- (iii) Save the Children https://www.savethechildren.org/
Contact your elected representatives to speak up and ensure that this, and other conflicts don’t fade into the background in elected officials’ minds. In the US you can find contact information for your representatives here: https://www.congress.gov/contact-us.
Statement Sept 23, 2022 by the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, at the 51st session of the Human Rights Council
UN News release on September 2022 UN commission’s statement
New York Times article on September 2022 UN commission’s statement
Press statement, July 13 2022, by Anthony J. Blinken, US Secretary of State, “Russia’s Filtration Operations, Forced Disappearances, and Mass Deportations of Ukrainian Citizens”
US Department of State Website on Russia’s Filtration Operations and Forced Relocations
Yale School of Public Health Humanitarian Research Lab (Yale HRL) report on Russia’s Filtration Operations in Ukraine, August 2022
An Independent Legal Analysis of the Russian Federation’s Breaches of the Genocide Convention in Ukraine and the Duty to Prevent, May 2022
Guardian article on the May 2022 independent legal analysis
Consequences of child exposure to war and terrorism. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14719639/
The Effects of Armed Conflict on Children. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/142/6/e20182586/37464/The-Effects-of-Armed-Conflict-on-Children?autologincheck=redirected?nfToken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000
The effects of war and trauma on learning and cognition: The case of Palestinian children. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2019-51669-026
*Thank you to Hilary Barth for her significant contributions to this statement
 A UN-appointed panel of independent legal experts examined evidence from February/March 2022 in four northern regions of Ukraine and concluded in a statement on September 23, 2022 that Russian troops had committed war crimes, including conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence against children. The same commission will investigate further alleged violations, including those affecting children, such as the “filtration camps” that carry out the forced transfer of Ukrainians to Russian territory and the expedited adoption of Ukrainian children by families in Russia.