The human rights situation in Ukraine as Russia continues its military campaign following last year’s full-scale invasion, remains dire, according to a new report released on Friday by the UN human rights office (OHCHR) covering the six months to the end of January.
“The international armed conflict has led to a wide range of human rights violations affecting both civilians and combatants“, the executive summary states, adding that the Office has “verified numerous allegations of arbitrary deprivation of life, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, and conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV).”
During the reporting period, a total of 5,987 civilian casualties were recorded, with 1,605 persons killed and 4,382 persons injured. Casualty numbers are likely far higher, as they only include verified incidents.
A large number of civilian casualties resulted from attacks involving explosive weapons with wide area effects.
“The war has taken a heavy toll on civilians, with acts of hostilities killing groups of individuals and in some cases multiple members of the same families at once”, the summary states.
Hitting the energy grid
Since October 2022, Russian strikes targeting critical energy infrastructure have killed at least 116 civilians and injured at least 379. Significant electricity shortages have followed, creating serious challenges for civiliansd through the cold winter months.
Infrastructure and housing have been heavily impacted too, with damage or destruction caused to 107 medical facilities and 179 educational buildings during the reporting period.
The right to security, health, work, education, housing, social support and services for persons with disabilities, and freedom of religion or belief, have also been infringed, according to the OHCHR report.
Some 21 civilians were killed during the reporting period by Russian armed forces, “both through summary executions and attacks on individual civilians.”
There were 214 documented cases (185 men, 24 women and 5 boys) of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of civilians in territory of Ukraine that was or remains Russian occupied.
“Russian armed forces arrested victims in their homes, workplaces, in the street ,or at check points during so-called ‘filtration’ processes. OHCHR documented 10 cases (7 men, 3 women) of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of media workers and human rights defenders” inside occupied territory.
OHCHR said they were gravely concerned about the arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture or other ill-treatment of children by Russian armed forces. During the reporting period, the rights office documented the enforced disappearances of five boys between 14 and 17 years old.
“The children were all subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, and, in one case, the victim was deported to Belarus”, said the report.
From February 2022 to 31 January this year, OHCHR documented 133 cases of sexual violence related to the fighting (85 men, 45 women, 3 girls), the majority of which took place in territory occupied by Russia.
There are 109 cases attributable to Russian armed forces or Russian law enforcement and penitentiary staff, the report states.
During the reporting period, OHCHR documented three cases of rape against women in small communities where Russian armed forces were stationed.
OHCHR also documented transfers of civilians to areas in occupied territory or across the border into Russia, “some of which may amount to forced transfers or deportations.”
Rights violations in Ukrainian Government territory
Within parts of Ukraine controlled by the Government in Kyiv, OHCHR documented 91 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions (79 men, 12 women) committed by Ukrainian armed forces and law enforcement agencies.
Most detainees were arrested for suspicion of collaborating with, or helping in some way, Russian armed forces. OHCHR reported it had documented the arbitrary detention of 88 Russian civilian sailors who legally entered Ukraine before the start of the invasion last year, but were not thereafter allowed to disembark from their ships in the Odesa region.
Since 24 February last year, OHCHR has documented 24 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, in territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine. All cases occurred between March and July last year. “They mostly affected men and consisted predominantly of threats of sexual violence during the initial stages of detention“, said the report.