High-level event on “Gross Human Rights Violations Due to the Aggression Against Ukraine”

High-level event on “Gross Human Rights Violations Due to the Aggression Against Ukraine”

Two days before the one-year mark since Russia’s full-scale illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN together with 45 Member States’ missions and the EU Delegation to the UN, hosted a high-level side-event: “Gross Human Rights Violations Due to Russia’s Aggression Against Ukraine,” to discuss the consequences of Russia’s war on the rights of prisoners of war, violations against children, and overall human rights across three panel discussions.

The conference included an opening session moderated by Ambassador Keith Harper and with remarks from First Lady of Ukraine Ms. Olena Zelenska, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, and Foreign Minister of Ukraine Mr. Dmytro Kuleba, as well as Foreign Ministers of the Netherlands, Estonia (on behalf of the Groups of Friends on Accountability), Guatemala, and Canada.

The opening session included powerful remarks from the First Lady of Ukraine, Ms. Olena Zelenska, who emphasized the need for justice and urgent action. Ms. Zelenska underlined the need for unity within the international community, stating, “when the rights of one citizen are violated, it is an encroachment on the rights of all… Either we all have them, or we have none.” In the following high-level opening remarks, the esteemed panelists highlighted the devastating human cost of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, emphasized the need to hear the voices of the victims, and use the rule of law to support Ukraine and protect the human rights of all around the world.

The first panel, titled “Violations of the rights of prisoners of war,” focused on the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian detainees and the actions being committed against these individuals by the Russian Federation direct violation of international humanitarian law. Mr. AndrijDobriansky moderated this panel. It included first-hand testimonies from former Ukrainian prisoners of war and a civilian detainee and statements by civil society and NGO leaders, international humanitarian law experts, and diplomats. Several calls to action regarding the protection of POWs and the unlawful detention of civilians were recommended throughout this discussion, including recognizing Russia’s violations of the existing legal obligations regarding prisoners of war, which include detaining non-combatants, not allowing families to communicate with prisoners of war, refusing third-party access or monitoring of prisoner of war facilities, providing insufficient food and medical provisions, and creating inhumane conditions of detention, as well as numerous others.

Specific calls for support from the international community included the establishment of a mechanism to keep in touch with prisoners of war systematically; provide them clothes, medicine, and other necessities; facilitate the carrying out of visits and investigations; the renewal of the mandate on the independent international inquiry of Ukraine and UN monitoring commission in Ukraine in the upcoming Human Rights Council session; and the creation of a mechanism for a specific negotiation platform for the release of Ukrainian civilians. The need for action from the international community was abundantly clear, with one of the former prisoners of war declaring to the audience: “Today, I am looking for justice in this building.”

The second panel, titled “Violations of the rights of the child,”centered around the child's rights. Several speakers highlighted Russia's actions' lasting and damaging effects on Ukrainian children. The panel was moderated by Ms. Dora Chomiak, President of Razom Ukraine.

Speakers on the second panel explained that the damages included psychological, physical, and social harm to children and urged the importance of providing Ukrainian children with a proper educational setting. Many speakers discussed Russia’s forced deportation and adoption of Ukrainian children, explaining that these actions were being done to erase Ukrainian identity and constituted genocide. While exact estimates of the total number of forcibly deported children are challenging to provide, multiple speakers estimated that at least 16,000 Ukrainian children had been forcibly deported. Ongoing efforts to track displaced children include interviews with children who have been able to return to Ukraine successfully, satellite images to identify the location of camps where children are, and the “Children of War” platform created by the Ukrainian government.

Several speakers called on the need for the international community to make concerted efforts to condemn Russia’s acts against children, call on Russia to comply with its international law obligations to register the children and provide a method of communication to them, help monitor and track Ukrainian children; and support efforts to offer Ukrainian children with a sense of normalcy both during and after the war.

The third panel, titled “Human rights consequences of the war of aggression against Ukraine,” centered around themes of documenting and pursuing accountability for gross human rights violations as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. The moderator, Mr. Evan Solomon, began the conversation by stating the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine has created the worst humanitarian and human rights crisis in Europe since WWII, with violations including war crimes and crimes against humanity. This panel emphasized a common point raised throughout the conference: the statistics of human rights violations we hear are just the tip of the iceberg. There are likely thousands of human rights abuses in Ukraine that we will never hear about. That being said, it was shared that the over 31,000 documented crimes since the invasion in 2022 are already overloading Ukrainian legal systems, which require more help from the international community. Several speakers on this panel depicted crimes they believe are characteristics of genocide, such as Russia’s goal to erase Ukrainian identity and culture – specifically regarding the Crimean Tatars. Almost all distinguished speakers also acknowledged that Russia’s illegal use of force against the safety and sovereignty of Ukraine is unacceptable, violates the UN charter and that a war of aggression is taking place. It was concluded that the severity of these crimes and the dire situation in Ukraine requires action from the international community.

Several speakers suggested that the international community establish accountability mechanisms such as a tribunal for the crime of aggression, tribunals for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and an independent fact-finding documentation and analysis mission that centers voices from the ground with support from the international community to provide documenters with the resources and means to work as best they can.

In his closing remarks, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala H.E. Mr. Mario Bucaro emphasized the need for action and suggested the UN provide financial and other resources to the International Criminal Court and documenters of human rights violations.

The event video-record is available via the links:


Related news