Rights chief says Ukrainians suffer Russia imposed ‘violence, intimidation, coercion’

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Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau
UNITED NATIONS, 3rd April.
UN human rights chief Volker Türk on Tuesday called for the fighting and occupation of Ukraine to end, so the country can begin “healing the deep wounds and painful divisions” caused by Russia’s invasion.

UN High Commissioner Mr. Türk told the UN Human Rights Council via a video statement that over two years since the invasion began “harrowing stories of human suffering” unfold in the country every day, expressed concern that “the world has grown numb to this crisis”.

Some 10,500 civilians have been killed, and 20,000 injured over the past two years of “immense suffering, bloodshed, loss and grief”, the UN rights chief reminded, noting that actual figures are likely to be “significantly higher”.

OHCHR in a report issued cited the rights violations began 10 years ago with the occupation of Crimea by Russian forces.

“The imposition of the Russian Federation’s legal and administrative systems has resulted in people in Crimea being charged and convicted, sometimes retroactively, for acts that are not crimes under Ukrainian law,” Mr. Turk said.

The occupation has expanded to parts of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions since the February 2022 invasion.

He noted the conscription of men in Crimea, forced to fight against their own country.

Volker stated that the Russian armed forces have committed widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including unlawful killings, torture, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention in occupied areas.

He noted that targeting of individuals deemed “pro-Ukrainian” and posing security risks have expanded while Russia has closed down Ukrainian internet providers, mobile networks, TV, and radio, rerouting communications through Russian networks.

“Russian occupying authorities have quashed peaceful protests, restricted free expression, imposed strict controls over residents’ movements, and pillaged homes and businesses”, he said.

He added “They have actively encouraged people to inform on one another, breeding fear and distrust between neighbors and friends”.

Volker stressed that in an atmosphere of “generalized impunity” those actions have created “a pervasive climate of fear, which has allowed the Russian Federation to solidify its control”.

He noted that hHolding Russian citizenship is increasingly necessary to access vital services, social security, and employment stated that people in the occupied territory were pressured to vote in Russian elections.

Volker highlighted the plight of prisoners of war and Russia’s ongoing abuses: “My Office has recorded allegations of the executions of at least 32 captured Ukrainian PoWs in twelve separate incidents”.

He warned that after Ukraine reclaimed territories held by Russia, many of these violations ceased. Some  residents deemed to be collaborators have suffered a backlash.

Mr. Türk said that some have been prosecuted for performing routine tasks in their communities during the occupation, often under pressure or coercion.

OHCHR has documented that others have been convicted for actions permissible under international humanitarian law when compelled by an occupying power.

It noted that instances of torture, arbitrary detention, and infringements on fair trial rights were documented by OHCHR against some accused of collaboration.

 “The tragedy in Ukraine has gone on for too long. I call again on the Russian Federation to cease its armed attack,” Mr. Türk said,

He implored the Russian authorities to take immediate action to conduct investigations into each allegation of execution of PoWs, and to take steps to end their torture and ill-treatment.

It is time to put an end to this war and occupation and to commence healing the deep wounds and painful divisions they have caused,” he underscored.

He added “History has shown us that the legacy of occupation is painful, complex and long-lasting,”

Mr,. Volker encouraged Ukraine to adopt a comprehensive approach to accountability, based on broad and inclusive consultations.

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