Thursday, 22 February 2024 17:54

Ukraine: Report reveals war’s long-term impact which will be felt ‘for generations’

© UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov
A mother and her two children take refuge from bombardments in a Kyiv metro station in January 2024.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, entering its third year, has exacted a “horrific human cost”, inflicting immense suffering on millions of civilians that will be felt “for generations”, UN human rights chief Volker Türk said on Thursday.

“Russia’s full-scale armed attack on Ukraine, which is about to enter its third year with no end in sight, continues to cause serious and widespread human rights violations, destroying lives and livelihoods,” he said in a statement launching a new report.

This month marks not only two years since Moscow’s all out assault, but also 10 years since Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

UNHumanRights

Millions displaced, thousands dead

In its latest report, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has verified 30,457 civilian casualties since 24 February 2022, including 10,582 killed and 19,875 injured, with the actual numbers likely to be significantly higher.

Millions have been displaced, thousands have lost their homes, and hundreds of medical and educational institutions have been damaged or destroyed, significantly impacting people’s rights to health and education.

“The long-term impact of this war in Ukraine will be felt for generations,” Mr. Türk said.

Serious rights violations

Over the past two years, human rights office OHCHR has documented widespread torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention of civilians by Russian armed forces.

Summary executions, enforced disappearances and repression of the right to freedom of expression and assembly have also been documented in occupied territory.

In addition, interviews with over 550 former Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilian detainees by the monitoring mission have indicated the commission of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by Russian armed forces, including summary execution and widespread torture.

Since 24 February 2022, the already dire human rights situation in occupied Crimea has worsened, with a crackdown on those criticizing the occupation. The UN Human Rights Office will release a report on the decade-long Russian occupation next week.

“The ongoing Russian assault does not exempt Ukrainian forces from their own obligations to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” the UN rights chief said.

Peace urgently needed

During the past two years, the Office has documented a number of violations committed by Ukrainian military and security forces, albeit a fraction of the scope of those perpetrated by Russian forces, he said, noting that the Office is continuously engaging with Ukrainian authorities to address these issues.

Renewing his call on Russia to cease its continuing armed attack on Ukraine immediately, he emphasized the urgency of achieving a just peace and appealed again to Moscow to allow OHCHR full access.

IOM charts widespread destruction

More than 14.6 million people – 40 per cent of Ukraine’s population – remain in need of some form of humanitarian assistance in 2024 and 2.2 million refugees require assistance in neighbouring countries, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a statement on Thursday.

“The destruction is widespread, loss of life and suffering continues,” said International Organization for Migration (IOM) Director General Amy Pope.

Over 14 million people – nearly one third of Ukraine’s population – have fled their homes since the full-scale invasion. Families have been separated, children left homeless, and communities destroyed.

Some 3.7 million people remain displaced within Ukraine, while nearly 6.5 million are refugees globally. Over 4.5 million have returned home to date from either abroad or displacement within the country.

Since the escalation of the war in Ukraine, IOM has supported 6.5 million people in the country and across 11 neighbouring countries, providing critical and life-saving aid to those most in need.

“The needs are enormous, however, so much more needs to be done,” Ms. Pope said.

End impunity, including for Navalny’s death

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Russia on Thursday called for accountability and solidarity with all the victims of the war, including Russian activists.

The war has devastated millions of Ukrainians and intensified repression of civil and political rights within Russia itself and “unleashed a war against Russians at home”, Mariana Katzarova said in a statement on Thursday.

Following news of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny’s death in prison last week, she and other UN Special Rapporteurs called on Moscow for an independent investigation and the immediate release of all political prisoners in Russia.

Since last Friday, the Russian authorities have violently and arbitrarily detained hundreds of peaceful citizens for laying flowers in honour of Navalny in more than 39 cities across Russia, she added.

“I call on the international community to stand in solidarity with all the victims of the war against Ukraine, including the brave Russian human rights defenders, journalists and activists who continue to courageously oppose the war despite facing intimidation, persecution, lengthy imprisonment, and even death,” she said.

Special Rapporteurs and other independent rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. They are not UN staff, are independent from any government or organization and do not receive a salary for their work.