The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published an alarming report on Wednesday on the human rights situation in Ukraine in the context of the ongoing Russian invasion.
The UN has documented 10,000 civilian casualties since the conflict began on February 24, “among them 4,731 people have been killed”, said Matilda Bogner, head of the Ukraine human rights monitoring mission, to reporters in Kyiv as she presented the report’s findings.
She warned that the number of casualties is “considerably higher” because the report only highlights figures that the mission was able to independently verify.
“The Russian Federation’s armed attack on Ukraine has had a devastating impact on human rights across the country. We have documented violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including war crimes. These violations highlight the heavy toll the conflict takes day in and day out,” Bogner said.
The report is based on information collected during 11 field visits, three visits to places of detention and 517 interviews with victims and witnesses between February 24 and May 15, 2022. The evidence is also based on documents court records, official records and open sources.
The report documents violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law “to varying degrees, by both sides”, according to Bogner.
“The high number of civilian casualties and the scale of the destruction and damage to civilian infrastructure have raised concerns that the attacks carried out by the Russian armed forces do not comply with international humanitarian law. Although on a much smaller scale, it also appears that the Ukrainian armed forces failed to respect international humanitarian law in the east of the country,” Bogner added.
The report also raised “serious concerns” about allegations of torture of POWs by both sides to the conflict, including testimonies from 44 POWs interviewed by the UN mission.
Bogner pointed out that the mission encountered evidence of the widespread use of extrajudicial sanctions against those alleged to be looters, thieves and curfew violators in Ukraine.
“OHCHR has documented and verified allegations of unlawful killings, including summary executions of civilians in more than 30 settlements in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, committed while these territories were under the control of armed forces Russians. In Bucha (Kyiv region) alone, the OHCHR has documented the unlawful killings, including summary executions, of at least 50 civilians,” the report points out, adding that the scale of the problem “has not yet been fully assessed.
The UN document also noted “concern over the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance” of local government officials, journalists, civil society activists and other civilians by Russian troops and affiliated armed groups.
OHCHR has documented 248 cases of arbitrary detention, six of which resulted in death.
The OHCHR report includes “reasonable grounds to believe” that Russian and Ukrainian armed forces used weapons equipped with cluster munitions, including Tochka-U missiles, which caused civilian casualties. The use of such weapons in populated areas is contrary to international law.
Concluding the report, the OHCHR recommended that all parties to the conflict “respect and ensure respect at all times and in all circumstances” for human rights and international humanitarian law. The report also urged Russia “to immediately cease the armed attack” and to comply with its obligations under international law.
The Human Rights Observation Mission in Ukraine maintains its presence in Donetsk, Dnipro, Odessa and Uzhhorod.