The United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has published an alarming report Wednesday about the human rights situation in Ukraine in the context of the ongoing Russian invasion.
The UN documented 10,000 civilian casualties since the conflict began on Feb. 24, “among them, 4,731 people were killed,” Matilda Bogner, head of Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, told journalists in Kyiv as she presented the report’s findings.
She warned the casualty numbers are “considerably higher” as the report only highlights the figures the mission was able to independently verify.
“The armed attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine has had a devastating impact on the human rights across the country. We documented violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including war crimes. These violations highlight the heavy toll the conflict is having day in and day out,” Bogner said.
The report is based on information gathered during 11 field visits, three visits to places of detention and 517 interviews with victims and witnesses between Feb. 24 and May 15, 2022. The evidence also draws from court documents, official records and open sources.
The report documents violations of international human rights and humanitarian law “to varying degrees, by both parties,” according to Bogner.
“The high number of civilian casualties and the extent of destruction and damaged caused to civilian infrastructure raised significant concerns that attacks conducted by Russian Armed Forces did not comply with international humanitarian law. While on a much lower scale, it also appears that Ukrainian armed forces did not comply with international humanitarian law in Eastern parts of the country,” Bogner added.
The report also raised “serious concerns” about the allegations of torture of prisoners of war by both sides on the conflict, including testimonies of 44 prisoners of war interviewed by the UN mission.
Bogner stressed the mission encountered evidence of widespread use of extrajudicial punishment 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 Russian armed forces. In Bucha alone (Kyiv region), OHCHR documented the unlawful killings, including summary executions, of at least 50 civilians,” the report outlined, adding the full scale of the problem “is yet to be fully assessed.”
The UN document also outlined “concern about the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance” of representatives of local authorities, journalists, civil society activists and other civilians by Russian troops and affiliated armed groups.
OHCHR documented 248 cases of arbitrary detention, with six of those resulting in deaths.
The OHCHR report includes “reasonable grounds to believe” that both Russian and Ukrainian armed forces have been using weapons equipped with cluster munitions, including Tochka-U missiles that resulted in civilian casualties. The use of such weapons in populated areas contradicts international law.
Concluding the report, OHCHR recommended all parties of the conflict “respect and ensure respect at all times and in all circumstances” for international human right and humanitarian laws. The report also urged Russia “to immediately cease the armed attack” and comply with its obligations under international law.
The Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine maintains its presence in Donetsk, Dnipro, Odesa and Uzhhorod.