At the bi-weekly press briefing on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner Rights spokesperson Elizabeth Throssell said,“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk today deplored the human cost of the war in Ukraine that has left at least 8,006 civilians dead and 13,287 injured over the past 12 months, in addition to the numerous lives previously lost in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”
“These numbers, which we are publishing today, lay bare the loss and suffering inflicted on people since Russia’s armed attack began on 24 February last year; suffering the High Commissioner heaerd and saw for myself first hand when he visited Ukraine in December last year,” the spokesperson said.
“He stressing that every day that violations of international human rights and humanitarian law continue, it becomes harder and harder to find a way forward through mounting suffering and destruction, towards peace,” she said
UN Human Right data are only the tip of the iceberg. The toll on civilians is unbearable. Amid electricity and water shortages during the cold winter months, nearly 18 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Some 14 million people have been displaced from their homes.
According to the UN Human Rights Office’s monitoring mission in Ukraine, of the adult civilian casualties whose sex was known, men accounted for 61.1 per cent of civilian casualties and women for 39.9 per cent. At least 487 children were killed and 954 injured.
“Some 90.3 per cent of civilian casualties were caused by explosive weapons with wide area effects, including artillery shells, cruise and ballistic missiles, and air strikes. Most occurred in populated areas,” Throssell said.
“The Office’s presence on the ground, which has been monitoring civilian casualties in Ukraine since 2014, has stressed that the actual figures are likely substantially higher, as its numbers only reflect verified individual cases,” she said.
The monitoring mission has received information regarding 21 civilian casualties – six killed and 15 injured – in the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, occupied by the Russian Federation.
Many reports of civilian casualties are still pending corroboration in other occupied areas of Ukraine, notably in locations such as Mariupol (Donetsk region) and Lysychansk, Popasna, and Sievierodonetsk (Luhansk region).
In addition, the Office has information regarding 160 civilian casualties – 30 killed and 130 injured - in the territory of the Russian Federation. Given the lack of corroborating information to date, these figures have not been included in the total numbers.
“Civilians were killed in their homes and while simply trying to meet their essential needs, such as collecting water and buying food. These included 67-year-old Olha, who was killed in a missile strike just metres from her flat in Kharkiv as she went to buy milk the day after the war began. Her friend told UN human rights monitors how she came down from their shared 15th floor apartment to find Olha lying dead in the street,” the spokeperson said.
“Serhii, a man in his 60s, choked back tears as he told human rights monitors how he saw his six-year-old granddaughter lose a leg in an artillery attack, when his house in a village near Kherson took a direct hit on 2 April 2022,” she said.
Efforts to establish accountability and justice for violations of international law must intensify and deepen. It is equally vital that victims are able to access reparations and the practical assistance they desperately need, without first having to wait for the outcomes of formal legal proceedings.
Matilda Bogner, Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, gave the following answer concerning the sexual violences: “My colleagues interviewed a former prisoner of war, and he was from Mariopol and he was forced in Mariupol to collect the bodies on the city streets. He told us that Russian soldiers were expected to meet the daily quota of one truck of corpses per day. And that is, as he said, in Mariupol meeting with that quota was not a problem at all.”
“We have documented more than 100 cases of conflict related sexual violence. We've documented hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention. And so these are just the cases that we have been able to document. The real scale of these things is yet to be fully understood but our figures show that there are a lot of violations taking place. The information that we collect is useful for international prosecutions, both in terms of showing the patterns of violations that are taking place” she said.
“In fact Kherson is one of the regions which has the highest levels of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions that we have been documenting,” Bogner said.
“It’s an area that was under Russian occupation, and during that period they were targeting local government officials, they were targeting activists, human rights defenders, people who had views which were pro Ukrainian. They were detaining them and sometimes enforcedly disappearing them. Some of those people have returned, others have not and remain detained, others remain disappeared. Some of them have since been found dead, unfortunately,” Bogner said.