Comment by Matilda Bogner, Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine on six months into Russia’s armed attack on Ukraine
It’s been six months since the Russian Federation launched a full-scale attack against Ukraine.
The resulting escalation of the 8-year long armed conflict has brought more death, suffering, damage and destruction. Every day, we speak with people affected by the war, and hear about and document violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes.
From 24 February 2022 to 23 August 2022, our Mission recorded 13,560 civilian casualties in the country: 5,614 civilians were killed, including 362 children, and 7,946 were injured, including 610 children. 92 percent of these casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.
We know that the actual figures are considerably higher. Each of these figures is a human being, whose life or health has been lost or damaged.
Civilians also suffer from arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance. We have documented 327 cases (279 men, 47 women, 1 boy) in territory controlled by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups since 24 February: 105 victims (86 men and 18 women, and a boy) were released, and 14 were found dead (13 men and 1 woman). We also documented 39 arbitrary arrests (35 men and 4 women) by law enforcement bodies of Ukraine, where procedural and judicial guarantees of the right to liberty have been violated and 28 other cases (24 men and 4 women) that may amount to enforced disappearance.
Many of these victims, on both sides, have faced torture. Human beings, whoever they are, must be treated with dignity.
Prisoners of war and those hors de combat have also been tortured and ill-treated. Protections guaranteed to them by international law must be respected. While we have access to prisoners of war and other conflict-related detainees in Government-controlled areas, this is not the case for prisoners of war or conflict-related detainees held in other areas. We call on the Russian Federation to grant independent monitors full access to all individuals detained in relation to the armed conflict by the Russian Federation, including those held by Russian-affiliated armed groups.
The escalation has also further impacted the more vulnerable groups in society. We meet older persons, persons with disabilities, whose houses have been damaged or destroyed, who cannot afford to rent housing in safe areas, or repair the roofs, walls and windows with their small pensions. They have to choose between buying essential medicines and hard fuels to store for the upcoming winter. It will be a difficult winter, but policies that take into account the most vulnerable can help to alleviate the worst impacts.
We reiterate our calls to the sides to take constant care to spare and protect civilians while hostilities are ongoing.
We will continue to document the facts on the ground, an essential part of seeking to prevent further violations and to hold those accountable for the violations already committed. We are also ready to provide human rights expertise in developing policies to respond to the current challenges.
Our most recent findings on the impact of the armed attack by the Russian Federation on human rights in Ukraine will be provided in our next report in September.