Countries, international organizations and human rights entities discussed this Wednesday at the UN how to ensure accountability for grave atrocities Russian that are being committed in Ukrainea war that will be a litmus test for international justice, they warned.
Gathered in an informal session, the United Nations Security Council heard the positions of, among others, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet; the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan; the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Iryna Venediktova, and organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW).
All of them insisted that the crimes that are being seen in Ukraine cannot go unpunished if the world wants to maintain a glimpse of justice in the future.
“This is a critical juncture. The implications are profound in Ukraine, but extend beyond Ukraine. It is time to cling to the law, to uphold the law. If we do not hold on to the law with the utmost respect at this time, we will have nothing left but to accept hopelessness and suffering,” Khan stressed.
The ICC prosecutor, who has been investigating the situation in Ukraine since March, considered that the rule of law and the entire international legal system are at stake.
Since the start of the war, the UN has documented serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, Bachelet said.
In particular, the former Chilean president highlighted the numerous indiscriminate attacks, prohibited by these regulations and which may amount to war crimes.
Bachelet’s office has so far confirmed the deaths of 2,782 civilians, most as a result of aerial bombardments, missiles and artillery fire launched against urban areas, but assumes for sure that the true figures are much higher.
In places like Bucha, where Ukrainian authorities have reported a massacre by Russian forces, the UN has documented summary executions of at least 50 civilians, including some children and women, he said.
More than 170 cases of apparent arbitrary arrests and disappearances of officials, journalists and activists in Russian-controlled areas have also been corroborated, while there are also reports of such practices by Ukrainian forces.
According to Bachelet, the UN is also investigating dozens of complaints of sexual violence and reports of mistreatment of prisoners. “Accountability for these violations and the victims’ right to reparations must be ensured,” he insisted.
HRW, for its part, said the pattern of abuses being seen in Ukraine is consistent with well-documented serious crimes by Russian forces in other places such as Syria.
“The lack of accountability for these violations has unfortunately opened the door to what is happening today,” warned Ida Sawyer, the NGO’s director of crisis and conflict.
in search of justice
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, several initiatives have been launched both nationally and internationally to try to ensure that those responsible for the most serious crimes are brought to justice.
Among other things, the UN has created a commission of inquiry and several countries are collaborating with Ukraine to try to collect evidence.
In the ICC case, its chief prosecutor said it is gathering evidence and urged Russia to cooperate with the investigation if, as Moscow says, many of the alleged atrocities being seen are “fake news.”
“I have sent three communications to the Russian Federation. I have not received a response, but I will keep trying, ”said Khan, who insisted that his office has no political agenda and that his only mission is to seek the truth.
Bachelet, for her part, believed that four fundamental steps are necessary: preserve all kinds of evidence, decent treatment and forensic examinations of all mortal remains, an effective count of all deaths in the conflict and the development of mechanisms to offer reparations. to those affected.
The criminal responsibility of individuals for possible war crimes, he stressed, will be something that will have to be determined in fair trials and in full compliance with international standards.
“Any country that professes respect for human rights must ensure that it does not become a place of refuge for war criminals. Those responsible must face arrest at every port and Ukrainians must have access to the billions of dollars they will need to rebuild their state,” added human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
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