UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, addresses the Human Rights Council at an urgent debate on the situation in Ukraine. Image credit: UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré
Russia’s military attack on Ukraine has “opened a new and dangerous chapter in world history,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told an urgent debate on Thursday, leading calls for a ceasefire.
Convened at the request of Ukraine, the Human Rights Council gathered in Geneva to consider a draft resolution on the “situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression,” a week after its self-styled “special military operation” began shelling Ukrainian cities.
Violence escalating ‘as we speak’
“One week ago, the Russian Federation’s military attack on Ukraine opened a new and dangerous chapter in world history,” Ms. Bachelet said. “Military operations are escalating further as we speak, with military strikes on and near large cities, including Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mariupol…and the capital, Kyiv. The town of Volnovakha in Donetsk region has been almost completely destroyed by shelling, and its remaining residents have been hiding in basements.”
She updated the participants on casualty figures from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), indicating at least 227 deaths – 15 of them children. Moreover, at least 525 people have been injured, including 28 children.
Of that number, 323 casualties were recorded in Donetsk and Luhansk regions (65 killed and 258 injured), while 429 casualties were recorded in other regions of Ukraine – Kyiv, Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kyiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, and Zhytomyr regions – with 162 killed and 267 injured.
Ms. Bachelet added that “most civilian casualties were caused by the use of heavy artillery, multi-launch rocket systems, and airstrikes in populated areas, with concerning reports of the use of cluster munitions striking civilian targets.”
Rejecting the premise of the debate, Russia’s Permanent Representative to UN Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, questioned the motives of those joining international condemnation for his country’s actions.
“The peace and prosperity of Ukraine are not in your interests. The lives of ordinary Ukrainians are of no interest to you. You don’t need a settlement of the situation in Ukraine,” he said.
“The puppet regime of Mr. Zelensky is of interest to you only as a means of pressure and is a trump card in your confrontation with Russia.”
‘Death…dignity and dishonour’
Meanwhile, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Emine Dzhaparova declared that Russia’s “full-scale invasion” had entered its second week.
Following overnight reports of huge explosions in Kyiv, and confirmation that Russian troops had taken the key southern port of Kherson, she said that “every day, we witness both death and life, dignity and dishonor.”
“Death when, for example, a bleeding six-year-old girl with unicorn pyjamas could not be saved by doctors in Mariopol a couple of days ago,” Ms. Dzhaparova elaborated.
“The only reason why this is taking place is because a group of war criminals with access to the nuclear button concluded that our people are too weak to resist and to fight, and the world would not care. They put themselves above the international law and above the rules-based order.” A nine-year-old girl and her three-year-old brother arrive at a temporary shelter in Romania after fleeing the conflict in Ukraine with their mother. Image credit: © UNICEF/Ioana Moldovan
Victor Madrigal-Borloz, independent UN-appointed rights expert and spokesperson for the Special Procedures Coordinating Committee, said that the military attack “which flagrantly violates international law and strikes at the very heart of the spirit and object of the Charter, is fundamentally an attack on the order that enables our work to further human rights and their objective to promote the respect of human dignity.”
Also serving as the UN-appointed Independent Expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz, highlighted ongoing allegations of freedom of expression curbs inside Russia.
“Peaceful anti-war demonstrators continue to be arbitrarily arrested, with reports suggesting some 7,000 people have been arrested since Thursday last week,” he said.