UN rights chief urges Russia to respect humanitarian law in Ukraine

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk.


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk.

  • The UN urged Russia to respect humanitarian law after outlining evidence published in a report of torture and sexual violence against civilians in Ukraine.
  • The UN rights monitoring mission in Ukraine documented the arbitrary detention of more than 900 civilians between the launch of the Russian invasion and 23 May this year.
  • Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the findings “understated the crimes of the Ukrainian side”.

The United Nations human rights chief on Wednesday urged Russia to respect humanitarian law after outlining evidence published in a report two weeks ago of arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence against civilians in Ukraine.

The UN rights monitoring mission in Ukraine documented the arbitrary detention of more than 900 civilians between the launch of the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022, and 23 May of this year, and the summary executions of 77 of them.

“Over 90% of detainees held by the Russian Federation whom we were able to interview said they had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment – including sexual violence, in some cases – by Russian security personnel,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said.

“These findings are shocking. They call for concrete measures by the Russian Federation to instruct and ensure their Russian personnel comply with international human rights and humanitarian law,” he told the UN Council, the only body in which governments meet to protect human rights worldwide.

In response to Turk’s comments, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the findings “understated the crimes of the Ukrainian side”.

“The real scale of the atrocities of the Ukrainian authorities and military is deliberately hushed up,” he said.

Ukraine gave UN investigators full access with the exception of one incident, the report said, while Russia did not provide any access to detainees despite repeated requests.

Turk said his office had also recorded some violations committed by Ukraine.

“We also found that Ukrainian personnel in unofficial places of detention, or – to a much lesser extent – in official pre-trial detention facilities, engaged in torture or ill-treatment, including sexual violence, mostly involving threats,” he said.

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