By Sasha Granelli and Loïc Dorthe / GICJ
In an oral update, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk denounced massive crimes perpetrated by the Russian Army in Ukraine. Having visited Ukraine from the 4th to the 7th of December 2022, his update is based on his personal observations as well as that of the Commission of Inquiry mandated to collect violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Ukraine. The oral update presented on the 15th of December was followed by an informal discussion between the delegations.
Ten months after the illegal invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, the High Commissioner denounced alleged violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Among other atrocities, his report depicts wilful killings of civilians in several occupied towns, arbitrary detention, torture, forced displacement, gender-based violence including rape, and the deliberate striking of civilian infrastructures. With the onset of winter, the damages to infrastructures, including energy providers, hospitals, and private homes, will increase the suffering of the civilian population in the upcoming months.
Volker Türk further denounced the ineffectiveness of the Russian authorities to prosecute members of its own army. The United Nations has no information of Russian authorities having prosecuted or sanctioned soldiers and officers responsible for the perpetration of these crimes. The international UN mechanisms are therefore vital to bring accountability, reconciliation, and peace in Ukraine.
The representative of Ukraine further condemned the displacement, describing it as deportation, of over 3 million people towards Russian territory. Additionally, the delegate denounced the strategy of Russia to attack the Ukrainian population as a whole with more than 90% of the strikes targeting civilian infrastructures. She finally announced President Zelensky’s 10-point plan to end the war and restore peace in Ukraine. With the first point being the entire withdrawal of the Russian troops from the Ukrainian territory, the answer of Russia will show what the country is really aiming for, peace, or war.
An extreme majority of the international community continues to denounce Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, with some states asserting that these crimes represent war crimes and even crimes against humanity. The importance of accountability and reparation for survivors was described as vital to the resolution of the conflict. With the concern raised by the arrival of winter, some states announced increasing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
Delegations also raised their concerns about the restricted access to humanitarian aid in Ukrainians regions under the control of Russia. They called upon Russia to ensure the safe access to humanitarian aid for all.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) participated in the debate through two oral statements. With most of the crimes happening in the occupied territories, Loïc Dorthe, in a joint statement with International Organisation for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), recalled the record of occupied territories worldwide and the effects they have on human rights. To name but a few, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States inflicted massive human rights violations to no avail. The constant occupation of Palestine by Israel also witnesses constant human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and collective punishment. Therefore, to end the war will not suffice in Ukraine. The international community must ensure accountability for all occupations.
In the second statement, GICJ, Sasha Granelli jointly with Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration, emphasised the critical situation in Ukraine in the light of recent attacks on energy infrastructures and houses putting civilians in extreme danger; especially as winter begins. This forced the displacement of thousands in overcrowded centres, or to live in damaged houses with limited access to electricity, water and heating. These attacks are prohibited by International Humanitarian Law and must be stopped immediately. Sasha also condemned the proponent role of Iran in its current conflict, as well as in Yemen and Iraq by selling weapons and supporting lawless militias. Iran’s support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by selling drones destroying vital infrastructures and killing civilians must be strongly condemned by the international community, which must put an end to all types of conflict.
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