“My visit to Ukraine ended a week ago. But the horrors, suffering and the daily toll that this war is having on people in the country remain with me. The deaths. The lives uprooted. The families ripped apart. With more than 18 million people in Ukraine in need of humanitarian aid,” he said.
Some 7.83 million have fled the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced. An estimated 1.5 million children are at risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental conditions.
“A war that continues to be marked by gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law.”
As requested, the UN High Commissioner presented the report focused on killings of civilians by Russian armed forces through summary executions and attacks on individual civilians which took place in 102 villages and towns in Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions between 24 February and 6 April 2022.
The findings are based on information gathered during field visits to the three regions following the retreat of Russian troops, interviews with witnesses and survivors, and other sources of information.
HRMMU documented the killings of 441 civilians: 341 men, 72 women, 20 boys, and 8 girls.
The actual figures are likely to be considerably higher as we are working to corroborate an additional 198 alleged killings in these regions. The office is also documenting new cases in parts of Kharkiv and Kherson regions that were recently retaken by Ukrainian forces.
“In some cases, Russian soldiers executed civilians in makeshift places of detention. Others were summarily executed on the spot following security checks – in their houses, yards, and doorways. Even where the victim had shown clearly that they were not a threat, for example, by holding their hands in the air. There are strong indications that the summary executions documented in the report may constitute the war crime of wilful killing,” Türk said.
Men and boys comprised 88 percent of all victims of summary executions presented in the report, suggesting that they were disproportionately targeted based on their gender.
Russian forces carried out other types of attacks on individual civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law. Armoured vehicles and tanks fired at residential buildings, killing civilians in their homes.
Civilians were struck on roads while moving within or between settlements or while commuting to work.
Bucha was the town worst hit, where we documented the killings of 73 civilians (54 men, 16 women, 2 boys and 1 girl) between 4 and 30 March. Over a 150-meter stretch of Yablunska Street, 14 civilians (10 men, 3 women and 1 girl) were shot dead and left where they fell. My Office is in the process of corroborating 105 additional alleged killings of civilians in Bucha.
More broadly Türk stated that his team on the ground continues to document violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law affecting both civilians and combatants, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, and conflict-related sexual violence.
“My plea is to everyone engaged in armed activities fully to respect international humanitarian law. This body of law is an important achievement of humanity. A body of law which the international community must unequivocally defend. I urge support for the International Committee of the Red Cross and its work – the tried and tested custodian of international humanitarian law,” he stated.
The HC said that all allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law – by whomever and wherever committed – must be promptly investigated and the perpetrators of serious violations must be brought to justice, under a fair and independent legal process. But until now, accountability remains sorely lacking.
“My Office could not identify any case in which a member of the Russian armed forces – soldier or commander in rank – was held accountable by Russian authorities for carrying out or failing to take measures to stop or punish the killings. And Ukraine is facing resource and capacity constraints to investigate cases, even while numerous initiatives have been set up to assist it with accountability. From our perspective, it is important for the international community to support Ukraine in the development of reparation and assistance programmes for victims and survivors, to fill the gap until those who are responsible meet their obligations, ” Türk said.
“The scars of war run deep. Accountability is one of the remedies to heal the wounds of war.
Another is to envisage the kind of Ukraine that the people would like to live in once this horror is over. Human rights can help trace the path to peace, in line with the United Nations Charter and international law,” he said.
They are the building blocks to ensure social cohesion and trust among the different communities.
To guarantee that free expression, freedom of religious belief, social security, equality on all grounds, including ethnicity and language, and cultural rights are all part of the Ukraine of tomorrow.
In conclusion he stated “To bolster a judicial system that delivers fair trials and justice to the people; ensuring that all allegations of violations – recent violations and since 2014 – are investigated promptly and transparently and alleged perpetrators prosecuted, regardless of their affiliation; ensuring that laws under consideration are fully in line with international human rights standards. To create the space for a vibrant civil society to thrive.”
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