The suffering being experienced by millions of civilians across Ukraine must not become the new normal, the UN human rights chief said on Wednesday. Speaking in the capital, Kyiv, after an official four-day visit to the country, Volker Türk said that the scale of the damage and destruction that he had seen in Izium was “shocking”. In Bucha, north of Kyiv, where scenes showing civilians lying dead in the street sparked international outrage soon after the departure from the area of Russian forces in March, Mr. Turk said that people’s trauma “remains palpable”.

He added that he feared for all those caught up in the “long, bleak winter ahead”, while also confirming that the consequences of the war on human rights in Ukraine had been devastating. “The prognosis is very worrying,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, adding that his Office has continued to receive information about war crimes ‘each day’. “Information continues to emerge about summary executions, torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and sexual violence against women, girls and men,” he noted. The High Commissioner’s visit coincides with the release of a new report into the killings of civilians by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. The report is expected to document the fate of 441 civilians in parts of three northern regions – Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy – that were under Russian control until early April.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is also working to corroborate allegations of additional killings in these regions, and in parts of Kharkiv and Kherson regions that were recently retaken by Ukrainian forces, Mr. Türk said. Some were killed “cutting firewood or buying groceries”, the UN rights chief noted, adding that there were “strong indications that the summary executions documented in the report, constitute the war crime of willful killing”. On the issue of prisoners of war, the UN rights chief insisted that they must be treated humanely “at all times”. International law allows for their prosecution only if they are suspected of war crimes, he continued. From 24 February to 4 December 2022, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, has recorded 17,181 confirmed civilian casualties in Ukraine: 6,702 killed and 10,479 injured.

The report states that the UN has, so far, documented the violent deaths of 441 civilians (341 men, 72 women, 20 boys and 8 girls) in the three regions in the initial six weeks of the Russian invasion alone. The report cautions the actual figures “are likely to be considerably higher” as work is still ongoing to corroborate an additional 198 killings that occurred in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions occupied by Russia in the initial stages of the offensive. Ms. Bogner called on Russian authorities to promptly investigate all alleged violations of international law and to bring those responsible to justice.

Source: The UN

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