Ukraine war 'madness' threatening humanity, says UN rights chief Volker Turk

Russia's war in Ukraine has made severe rights violations 'shockingly routine', and is distracting humanity from battling existential threats to its survival, the UN rights chief warned Friday.

Agence France-Presse March 31, 2023 16:00:16 IST
Ukraine war 'madness' threatening humanity, says UN rights chief Volker Turk

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk delivers his statement during an interactive dialogue on the findings of OHCHR report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, at the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday. AP

Geneva: Russia’s war in Ukraine has made severe rights violations “shockingly routine”, and is distracting humanity from battling existential threats to its survival, the UN rights chief warned Friday.

Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, Volker Turk denounced horrific abuses carried out since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine 13 months ago, and warned the conflict “continues to send shock-waves across the world.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed to how sharp increases in the price of food, energy and other commodities had “heightened tensions and inequalities in every region”.

This, he warned, was ¬†exacerbating “the most severe global cost-of-living crisis in a generation” that has pushed some 71 million into poverty, and “threatens the stability of numerous countries.”

At the same time, 37 years after the Chernobyl disaster, “another Ukrainian nuclear power plant, in Zaporizhzhia, continues to be placed at enormous risk, with potential impact on millions of people.”

“At a time when humanity faces overwhelming existential challenges, this destructive war is tugging us away from the work of building solutions, the work of ensuring our survival,” Turk said.

“This war defies any reason. This madness must end, and peace be found.”

In his update to the council on the situation inside Ukraine, Turk said his office had verified more than 8,400 civilian deaths and over 14,000 civilians wounded since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.

“These figures are just the tip of the iceberg,” he cautioned.

Most of the casualties, Turk said, resulted from Russian forces using wide-impact explosive weapons in residential neighbourhoods.

He also highlighted findings by a UN investigative team of “numerous summary executions and targeted attacks on civilians” by Russian forces and affiliated armed groups like the Wagner Group, as well as “621 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention.”

Ukrainian armed forces had also carried out summary executions, according to those findings.

The UN chief also highlighted findings that Ukrainian civilians, and in particular children, have been transferred to occupied territory or to Russia.

According to Kyiv, more than 16,000 Ukrainian children had been deported to Russia as of last month.

The International Criminal Court has announced an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on the war crime accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.

A high-level UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) has meanwhile determined such forced transfers amount to war crimes, and said earlier this month they were also probing allegations they could amount to genocide.

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