(Geneva) Ukraine and its allies on Thursday denounced to the UN “the endless list” of abuses committed by Russia since the February 24 invasion, during a special session of the Human Rights Council that Moscow boycotted.
At the end of the meeting, requested by Kyiv, the 47 member states of the Council must vote on a draft resolution calling for an “investigation” by the UN’s international commission on Ukraine into serious human rights violations. charges against Russian occupation troops in the Kyiv, Cherniguiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions in late February and March 2022, “with a view to holding those responsible to account”.
“Thousands of people in my country have lost their lives. Russian shelling and shooting are part of our daily life,” Ukraine’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova said at the opening of the proceedings in a video address.
“Torture and forced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence, the list of Russian crimes is endless,” she denounced, before brandishing a sheet on which a little boy raped in front of his mother drew a whirlwind of black lines.
During the debates, many allied diplomats in Kyiv, but also the UN, expressed their horror and indignation at the suffering endured by the Ukrainians.
“Russian aggression is being accompanied, every day, by ever more macabre and unsustainable discoveries,” French Ambassador Jérôme Bonnafont said, while his British counterpart denounced the “brutal campaign” waged by Moscow.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said her office continues to verify allegations of abuse, “many of which may amount to war crimes.”
“The scale of unlawful executions, including indications of summary executions in areas north of Kyiv, is shocking,” she said, noting that she currently has information on 300 cases.
Ms. Bachelet also denounced the “unimaginable horrors” suffered by the residents of Mariupol.
The draft resolution also asks him to take stock – during the 50th session of the Council (from 13 June to 8 July) – of the humanitarian and human rights situation in Mariupol, now almost entirely under the control of the Russian forces.
This is the first meeting devoted to the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine since the UN General Assembly suspended Moscow in early April from the highest body of the international organization in human rights.
Russia can participate in the Council’s work as an observer, but opted for an empty chair policy on Thursday and waived its right of reply. In order not to leave the field completely to his adversaries, the Russian ambassador to the UN in Geneva Gennady Gatilov issued a press release denouncing “the demonization of Russia by the ‘collective West'”, speaking of an investigation in charges and denouncing the excesses of the Council, which has become a forum “for making political stunts”.
At the end of a first meeting on March 4, Kyiv succeeded in having the Human Rights Council adopt by an overwhelming majority a resolution deciding to urgently create an independent international commission of inquiry.
Its chairman, Erik Mose, a former judge at the Supreme Court of Norway and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and who also presided over the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), indicated that the commission had started its work although it does not yet have a budget.
He also pointed out that the “large number of entities” currently investigating the situation in Ukraine raises “coordination issues”.