Geneva – NEWS – “We remain gravely concerned by the rising death toll and human suffering in Ukraine and call for an immediate end to the attacks. We have so far recorded 549 civilian deaths and 957 injuries since the armed attack began on 24 February, although the actual figure could be much higher,” says Liz Throssell the United Nations spokesperson for the Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Civilians are being killed and maimed in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks, with Russian forces using explosive weapons with wide area effects in or near populated areas. These include missiles, heavy artillery shells and rockets, as well as airstrikes.
“Schools, hospitals, and kindergartens have been hit – with hugely devastating consequences. On 3 March, 47 civilians were killed when Russian airstrikes hit two schools and several apartment blocks in Chernihiv. On 9 March, a Russian airstrike hit Mariupol Hospital No.3 injuring at least 17 civilians. We are still investigating reports that at least three civilians may have been killed in the airstrike. We spoke to different sources in Mariupol, including local authorities, indicating consistently that the hospital was both clearly identifiable and operational when it was hit.
“We have also received credible reports of several cases of Russian forces using cluster munitions, including in populated areas. On 24 February, a cluster munition exploded at the Central City Hospital in Vuhledar, in government-controlled Donetsk, killing four civilians, injuring 10 others, and damaging ambulances, civilian vehicles and the hospital itself. There were other cluster munition attacks in several districts of Kharkiv, in which nine civilians were killed and 37 injured.
“Due to their wide area effects, the use of cluster munitions in populated areas is incompatible with the international humanitarian law principles governing the conduct of hostilities.
“Civilian casualties are rising daily, as is general human suffering. We remind the Russian authorities that directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called area bombardment in towns and villages and other forms of indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes.
“We also remain concerned by continued reports of arbitrary arrests and detention of Ukrainians who voice their opposition to the Russian attack, including in peaceful protests. We have documented individual cases of such arbitrary arrests in the east of Ukraine, but have been asked not to release details, as there are concerns regarding the safety of those who have spoken to us. We believe that those detained are at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and call for their immediate and unconditional release. We are also concerned by the pejorative use of labels such as “saboteurs” and “mercenaries”, with the intent or effect of exposing certain individuals to higher risks of harm.
“We call on the parties to fully respect the rights of everyone under their control. Those who have laid down their weapons or are hors de combat by injury or detention, including prisoners of war, must be treated humanely, and be protected from any form of torture or degrading treatment.”