The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released an alarming report on the human rights situation in Ukraine on Wednesday in the context of the ongoing Russian invasion.
The UN has documented 10,000 civilian casualties since the conflict began on Feb. 24, “among them 4,731 people were killed,” Matilda Bogner, head of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, told journalists in Kiev as she presented the report’s findings.
She warned that casualty numbers are “significantly higher” as the report only highlights numbers the mission could 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 gathered during 11 field visits, three visits to detention centers and 517 interviews with victims and witnesses between February 24 and May 15, 2022. The evidence is also drawn from court documents, official records and open sources.
The report documents violations of international human rights and humanitarian law “to varying degrees, by both sides,” Bogner said.
“The high number of civilian casualties and the extent of destruction and damage to civilian infrastructure raised concerns that attacks by Russian armed forces were not in accordance with international humanitarian law. Although on a much smaller scale, it also appears that Ukrainian armed forces have failed to comply with international humanitarian law in the eastern parts of the country,” Bogner added.
The report also raised “serious concerns” over allegations of torture of prisoners of war by both sides to the conflict, including testimonies from 44 prisoners of war interviewed by the UN mission.
Bogner stressed that the mission in Ukraine has found evidence of widespread use of extrajudicial penalties against those suspected of being looters, thieves and curfews violators.
“OHCHR has documented and verified allegations of unlawful killings, including summary executions of civilians in more than 30 settlements in the Kiev, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, while these areas were under the control of Russian forces. In Bucha (Kiev region) alone, the OHCHR documented the unlawful killings, including summary executions, of at least 50 civilians,” the report outlined, adding that the full extent of the problem “is yet to be fully assessed.”
The UN document also outlined “concerns over the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance” of representatives of local authorities, journalists, civil society activists and other civilians by Russian forces and affiliated armed groups.
OHCHR documented 248 cases of arbitrary detention, six of which resulted in death.
The OHCHR report contains “reasonable grounds to believe” that both the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces used weapons equipped with cluster munitions, including Tochka-U missiles, which resulted in civilian casualties. The use of such weapons in populated areas is contrary to international law.
Concluding the report, OHCHR advised all parties to the conflict to “at all times and in all circumstances ensure respect and respect” for international human rights and humanitarian law. The report also urged Russia to “immediately cease the armed attack” and comply with its obligations under international law.
The Human Rights Mission in Ukraine continues to be present in Donetsk, Dnipro, Odessa and Uzhhorod.