The UN rights chief on Tuesday, July 5, condemned Russia’s “senseless war” in Ukraine as she demanded an end to the “unbearable” civilian suffering unleashed by the invasion.
Michelle Bachelet called for an immediate end to hostilities and redress for the war’s victims, in her final appearance before the UN Human Rights Council.
“As we enter the fifth month of hostilities, the unbearable toll of the conflict in Ukraine continues to mount,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
“With daily killings, widespread destruction, arbitrary detention and mass displacement, civilians are bearing the brunt of hostilities that seemingly have no end in sight.
“In the name of every victim of this senseless war, the killings, the torture, the arbitrary detentions must stop.”
She presented a report on the human rights situation in Ukraine in the context of Russia’s attack, from the February 24 invasion to May 15.
“The high numbers of civilian casualties and the extent of destruction caused to civilian infrastructure continue to raise significant concerns that attacks conducted by Russian armed forces are not complying with international humanitarian law,” Bachelet said.
“While on a much lower scale, it also appears likely that Ukrainian armed forces did not fully comply with IHL in eastern parts of the country.”
– Civilian toll ‘indisputable’ –
Bachelet said that as of July 3, more than 10,000 civilian deaths or injuries had been documented across Ukraine, with 335 children among the 4,889 dead.
The actual figures are likely to be considerably higher, she added.
“Most of the documented civilian casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas,” she said.
“Even though the civilian toll from such weapons, used in the manner they have been, has become indisputable, Russian armed forces have continued to operate the same way — with predictable consequences on the civilian population and its infrastructure.”
Bachelet said concerns persisted about unlawful killings, including summary executions.
“Growing evidence gives my office reasonable grounds to believe that serious violations of IHL in this regard have been committed by Russian armed forces,” she said.
As of May 15, more than 1,200 civilian bodies have been recovered in the Kyiv region alone, with Bachelet’s office working to corroborate more than 300 allegations of killings by Russian troops in situations not linked to active fighting, the council was told.
– Final call –
She said the arbitrary detention of civilians had also become widespread in territory controlled by Russia and its affiliates.
She also noted that “appalling reports of torture and ill-treatment by both parties continue, including of prisoners of war”.
Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova said Russia had shown “total disregard for international law and human rights”.
“The whole nation has been subjected to pain and suffering,” she said, via video-link.
Russian diplomat Evgeny Ustinov said Bachelet’s office had “debased itself” and was now “part of the disinformation campaign against Russia, spreading lies” as accomplices in the crimes of the “terrorist Kyiv regime”.
Former Chilean president Bachelet, 70, is stepping down at the end of her four-year term.
Tuesday marked her final appearance in person at the Human Rights Council.
She ended by saying: “As this is the last time I’m addressing this council on the tragic situation of human rights in Ukraine, I wish to reiterate my urgent call on all relevant parties to put human life and rights at the centre of efforts to ensure immediate cessation of all hostilities, restore peace and support accountability and redress for all of those affected.”
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