Volker Türk: the occupation of Ukraine must end

Фолькер Тюрк: оккупация Украины должна прекратиться

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk. Volker Türk: the occupation of Ukraine must end International Law

Two years after the full-scale Russian invasion, the world has become indifferent to the war in Ukraine, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in Geneva on Tuesday. He recalled that a human tragedy is unfolding in Ukraine every day, and called on Russia to end the occupation.

“Two years of enormous suffering, bloodshed, loss and grief. Countless families were separated. More than 10,500 civilians were killed. More than 20,000 are injured. The real numbers are probably much higher,” Turk said.

10 years of occupation of Crimea

The High Commissioner recalled that 2024 marks the 10th anniversary of the occupation of Crimea. Citing a report by the Human Rights Office, Turk pointed to numerous human rights violations that have occurred there over the past decade.

Read also:

Report on 10 years of occupation of Crimea: multiple human rights violations and suppression of freedom of speech

“Russian authorities conscripted male Crimean residents into the Russian armed forces, ultimately forcing them to fight against their own country. Ukrainian children are deprived of the right to receive education in the Ukrainian language,” Turk said.

“People were denied the right to freely express their opinions, and the Russian Federation effectively banned any criticism of the war or occupation in Ukraine, as well as expressing pro-Ukrainian views,” he added.

Violations in other occupied areas

The violations that were recorded in occupied Crimea foreshadowed what is now being observed in the territory of Ukraine occupied by the Russian Federation after its full-scale armed attack, Turk said.

“In a report published on March 20, the Office entrusted to me documented the human rights situation in areas that came under the occupation of the Russian Federation in the period from February 2022,” he recalled he.

Read also:

UN report: ” climate of fear”

According to the Office, in the two years since the invasion, Russian armed forces have committed widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian standards rights, including unlawful killings, torture and arbitrary detention.

“The Russian Federation shut down the Ukrainian Internet, mobile networks, television and radio, with traffic redirected through Russian networks, which made it possible to limit the flow of information and censor pro-Ukrainian opinions,” Turk said.

“Russian occupation authorities are suppressing peaceful protests, restricting freedom of speech, imposing strict controls on the movement of residents and looting homes and businesses. They actively encouraged people to report each other, spreading fear and mistrust between neighbors and friends,” he added.

All this is happening in an atmosphere of impunity, the High Commissioner emphasized: people have nowhere to seek justice and nowhere to turn for effective legal protection.

“Following the illegal annexation of the territories of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporozhye regions in September 2022, the Russian Federation introduced its own systems of law, governance and administration in violation of international humanitarian law governing situations related to the occupation,” said Turk.

People without Russian citizenship are finding it increasingly difficult to access health care, social security and employment. Local residents are forced to work for the occupation authorities, serve in the Russian military and vote in Russian elections.

Many measures, Turk noted, are aimed at children. “The education system now uses the Russian curriculum. Children are reading textbooks with pro-Russian narratives that justify an armed attack on their country,” the human rights activist said.

Russia also took measures that deprived residents of the occupied territories of the right to freely choose their cultural identity .

Violations by the Ukrainian authorities

After Ukraine regained some of the territories occupied by Russia, most of these violations stopped, Turk noted. However, some of their residents became victims again, this time suffering at the hands of the Ukrainian authorities.

“Using an overly broad and vague criminal definition of “collaboration,” Ukrainian authorities targeted and convicted local residents who carried out routine work in their local community while it was under occupation, sometimes under coercion or pressure. The individuals were convicted of acts that the occupying power is permitted to compel people to commit under international humanitarian law,” the High Commissioner said.

The Office of Human Rights has documented torture and ill-treatment treatment, arbitrary detention and violations of fair trial rights against persons accused of collaborating with the occupation authorities.

Ill-treatment of prisoners of war

Turk also said that he was shocked by the brutal treatment of prisoners of war by the Russian Federation, which was described in detail in the Office’s report, covering the period from December 1, 2023 to February 29, 2024. It, in particular, refers to the executions of at least 32 Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Read also:

UN: Russia continues to torture and execute Ukrainian prisoners of war

The agency has documented stories of harsh detention conditions. Some Ukrainian soldiers lost half their weight while in captivity. In some facilities, medical personnel regularly used stun guns on prisoners of war as they were transported to the infirmary.

“Prisoners of war told my staff that before visits from high-ranking Russian officials, torture and ill-treatment often stop and the amount of food increases. The Russian Federation has the opportunity to end the torture of prisoners of war at all sites it controls, but it does not,” Turk said.

He called on Russia to investigate every allegation of the execution of prisoners of war and take action to end torture and ill-treatment of them. People, in particular, must be provided with sufficient food and medical care.

“In other words, the Russian Federation must fully implement the protections provided for by the Geneva Conventions,” the UN’s chief human rights defender said.

“During the same period, my office interviewed 44 Russian prisoners of war in Ukrainian captivity. Although they did not complain about treatment and conditions in regular detention facilities, some of them described incidents of torture and ill-treatment on the road after being evacuated from the battlefield,” he noted.

The time has come to end the war

The tragedy in Ukraine has been going on for too long, Turk emphasized , the occupation must end.

“I – once again – call on the Russian Federation to stop the armed attack. Violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by Russian military forces and officials in the occupied territory must immediately stop,” Turk said.

“The time has come to end this war and occupation,” he concluded.


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