Press Release

Mounting civilian deaths, mass destruction and catastrophic humanitarian situation as Russian Federation attacks Ukraine, says UN Human Rights Office

28 March 2022

Uzhhorod, 28 March 2022 – There are strong indications that serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of international human rights law have occurred following the Russian Federation’s armed attack on Ukraine on 24 February, says a new update issued by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU).

This update includes HRMMU’s findings from the start of the armed attack up to 26 March 2022, and is being published today alongside the 33rd OHCHR periodic report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, which covers the period from 1 August 2021 to 31 January 2022.

We are appalled, day after day, by the ever rising death toll and human suffering in cities, towns and villages across the country. The war must stop and accountability should be ensured,” said Matilda Bogner, Head of HRMMU.

The update documents that armed forces have used explosive weapons with wide area effects in or near populated areas – including missiles, heavy artillery, and rockets, as well as airstrikes. These weapons have caused civilian deaths and injuries, destroyed civilian objects and left civilians without access to healthcare, food, gas, water and electricity.

Directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects and indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Ms Bogner said. “The extent of destruction of civilian objects and civilian casualties strongly suggests that violations of the principles of distinction, and the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks have been taking place.”

Since the start of the Russian armed attack, as at 26 March, HRMMU has recorded at least 1,119 civilian deaths and 1,790 injuries, including 99 children killed and 126 injured. The actual figures are much higher, as the ability to collect and verify information from several locations affected by hostilities is severely hindered. This particularly concerns the city of Mariupol and the town of Volnovakha (both in Donetsk region), where high numbers of civilian casualties have been reported. 2,623 civilian casualties have occurred in Government-controlled areas, while 286 have occurred in territory in Donetsk and Luhansk regions controlled by self-proclaimed ‘republics’.

The update also documents arrests and detentions of 24 public officials by Russian troops and affiliated armed groups of self-proclaimed ‘republics’ in areas under their control, 13 of whom have been subsequently released. HRMMU has also documented the arbitrary arrests and possible enforced disappearances of 21 journalists and civil society activists who have been vocal against the Russian armed attack in Kyiv, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions. Seven journalists and media workers have been killed, 13 have been caught in hostilities, and at least one journalist is missing whose last known location was in an area of active hostilities. There are also growing concerns about possible reprisals and retaliation against human rights defenders and civil activists who have been vocal against the Russian armed attack, including Crimean Tatars.

HRMMU has also received information regarding arrests and detentions of more than 300 individuals by Ukrainian law enforcement officers, including three cases where officers allegedly did not provide information to the individuals’ relatives about their formal arrest, places of detention and fate.

The update describes cases of torture and ill-treatment of people believed to be so-called marauders, bootleggers, pro-Russian supporters, and curfew violators in territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine. HRMMU has received credible allegations of more than 45 such cases, perpetrated by civilians, police officers and members of the territorial defence. HRMMU is also working to corroborate a number of allegations of conflict-related sexual violence, including rape.

Persons in vulnerable situations have found themselves at increased risk since the armed attack started. People with physical and sensory disabilities and older persons have struggled to access bomb shelters, and also lack access to medicines. Long-term care facilities for persons with disabilities and older people in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions face an appalling humanitarian situation as they lack food, heating, electricity and water as a direct result of the hostilities.

UN Human Rights is committed to continuing its monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in Ukraine. HRMMU seeks first-hand information concerning international humanitarian law and human rights violations, and encourages victims and witnesses to contact:

  • E-mail: ohchr-hrmmu@un.org
  • HRMMU on Facebook: write to us on Facebook messenger Моніторингова місія ООН з прав людини / UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission
  • HRMMU on Telegram: ohchr_hrmmu (only messages, calls disabled)
  • HRMMU on Viber: +380503746708 (only messages, calls disabled)

ENDS

The full text of the update is available in English.

The full text of the 33rd periodic report on the human rights situation in Ukraine (which covers the period from 1 August 2021 to 31 January 2022) is available in English.

For more information or media enquiries, please contact Tanya Tesliuchenko at +380503868069 or e-mail tetiana.tesliuchenko@un.org

Tanya Tesliuchenko

Tanya Korol

OHCHR
Communications Officer

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