top of page

Ukraine update

As noted by Security Council Report, the Security Council is expected to hold a high-level debate on the situation in Ukraine. The Human Rights Council will also hold dialogues with the Commission of Inquiry and with the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. Below is some information on latest developments related to human rights. The Human Rights Likeminded Office had previously addressed Ukraine in its detailed post on Ukraine of 2 February and its post on the abduction of children of 25 April.

Key topics below [1,232 words]

  1. Scheduled briefing in HRC by the High Commissioner (9 October).

  2. Scheduled briefing in HRC by the Commission of Inquiry (25 September).

  3. High Commissioner referred to Black Sea Grain Initiative (11 September).

  4. Special Rapporteur on torture concluded visit in Ukraine (10 September).

  5. UNHCR and UNICEF reported on harm to Ukrainian children's education.

  6. Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine condemned attack in populated market in Kostiantynivka (6 September).

  7. Commission of Inquiry concluded visit (4 September).

  8. Commission of Inquiry published paper detailing violations (29 August).

  9. Joint statement by Special Rapporteurs on Russia's criminalization of criticism (28 August).

  10. OHCHR's report on detention of civilians in Ukraine and Secretary-General's report on Crimea (see paras 10-12 below).


  1. On 9 October 2023 (TBC), the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected to brief the Human Rights Council. The oral briefing will be provided on the basis of HRC resolution 53/30 on cooperation with and assistance to Ukraine in the field of human rights.

  2. On 25 September 2023 (TBC), the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine is expected to brief the Human Rights Council.

  3. On 11 September 2023, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk, reported that Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July, and attacks on grain facilities in Odesa and elsewhere, have again forced prices sky-high in many developing countries – taking the right to food far out of reach for many people.

  4. On 10 September 2023, the Special Rapporteur on torture, Ms. Alice Jill Edwards, concluded her visit in Ukraine. She said that "the volume of credible allegations of torture and other inhumane acts that are being perpetrated against civilians and prisoners of war by Russian authorities appears to be unabating... These grievous acts appear neither random nor incidental, but rather orchestrated as part of a State policy to intimidate, instill fear, punish, or extract information and confessions.” She gathered harrowing testimonies involving electric charges being applied to ears and genitals, beatings of all kinds, mock executions at gunpoint, simulated drowning, being required to hold stress positions, threats of rape or death, and various ceremonies of ridicule and humiliation. Returned Ukrainian civilians and soldiers recounted being crowded in basements and cells, in congested conditions, and being poorly fed. Several lost dangerous levels of weight. Her report will be presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2024.

  5. On 8 September 2023, UNHCR published a new Education Policy Brief, titled “Education on Hold”. The organization reported that while 30-50% of some 5.9 million Ukrainian refugees across Europe are children, only about half were enrolled in schools in host countries for the 2022-2023 academic year. Related to the above, UNICEF had reported on 29 August, that attacks on schools in Ukraine have continued unabated, leaving children deeply distressed and without safe spaces to learn. Teachers reported a deterioration in students’ Ukrainian language abilities, maths skills and foreign language abilities. Only a third of children of primary and secondary age are learning fully in-person. Another third of enrolled students are learning through a mixed approach of in-person and online, and one-third are fully remote.

  6. On 6 September 2023, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Ms. Denise Brown, condemned an attack that hit a populated market in Kostiantynivka. She recalled that intentionally directing an attack against civilians or civilian objects or intentionally launching an attack knowing it will cause disproportionate civilian harm is a war crime.

  7. On 4 September 2023, the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine delivered a statement on the conclusion of its visit to Kyiv and Uman. Working on the basis of a wide notion of accountability, including judicial and non-judicial measures, the Commission followed closely discussions about the establishment of reparations programs. The Commission will submit written reports of its activities to the General Assembly in October 2023, and to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2024. 

  8. On 29 August 2023, the Commission of Inquiry published an extensive Conference Room Paper. It is based on the March 2023 report and contains a detailed account of the basis for the findings of the Commission. It presents a select number of cases and describes patterns of a wide range of violations by the Russian armed forces. The violations include willful killings, unlawful confinement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, unlawful transfers and deportations of protected persons and children. Many of these violations qualify as war crimes, and some of them may, if confirmed by further evidence, amount to crimes against humanity, such as the use of torture and attacks on the civilian infrastructure. The paper also contains extensive discussions of criminal and non-judicial accountability measures, as well as the need for coordination.

  9. On 28 August 2023, several UN Special Rapporteurs expressed grave concern about recent decisions by Russia’s Constitutional Court to dismiss challenges to the constitutionality of the country’s legislative provisions that criminalize all “public actions aimed at discrediting” the Russian Armed Forces. Since the beginning of the war, Russia has arrested nearly 20,000 people for protesting the war in Ukraine, while 7000 people have been arrested for actions that allegedly “discredited” the Russian Armed Forces.

  10. On 12 July 2023, the High Commissioner for Human Rights presented his Office's report on detention of civilians in Ukraine and the Secretary-General's report on Crimea. Details are noted in the following two paragraphs.

  11. On 27 June 2023, OHCHR published its report on detention of civilians in Ukraine in February-May 2023. It noted "the ongoing Russian armed attack against Ukraine, in continuing breach of the United Nations Charter and international law" [para 2]. OHCHR documented 864 individual cases (763 men, 94 women and 7 boys) of arbitrary detention perpetrated by the Russian Federation during that period, many of which also amounted to enforced disappearances. Many individuals were detained during so-called ‘filtration’ [para 5]. OHCHR documented the detention of 260 civilians (209 men and 51 women) by Russia based on their perceived political views or other legitimate exercise of freedom of expression [para 6]. OHCHR further documented the detention of 88 civilians (all men) who had formerly served in the Ukrainian armed forces. 77 civilians were summarily executed while arbitrarily detained [para 9]. In contrast, OHCHR documented 75 cases (57 men, 17 women and 1 boy) of arbitrary detention by Ukrainian security forces, mostly of persons suspected of conflict-related criminal offenses [para 10]. The report included several recommendations to the international community, inter alia to take all possible measures to prevent and bring to an end violations of IHL, and use its influence to urge the parties to cease ongoing violations and provide effective remedies to all victims of arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances, and work collectively to ensure accountability for past violations; as well as to continue to request access for independent human rights monitors, including OHCHR, to detainees in the hands of the Russian Federation [para 149].

  12. On 26 May 2023, the Secretary-General published his report on the temporarily occupied Crimea (A/HRC/53/64), pursuant to GA resolution 77/229. He urged Russia and Ukraine to ensure unfettered access to Crimea by OHCHR and other human rights monitoring mechanisms [para 47]. He also included several recommendations to Russia, including to uphold its obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international human rights law and international humanitarian law; comply fully with the absolute prohibition of torture and ensure independent investigation of all allegations of crimes; respect the rights of persons deprived of liberty; refrain from enforced disappearances; refrain from intimidation and harassment of lawyers; enable freedom of movement; refrain from intrusion into the right private and family life; end the transfers of protected persons, including those who are detained; respect the rights of peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression and opinion, association, thought, conscience and religion; enable a safe environment for independent and pluralistic media outlets and civil society organizations without reprisals; end conscription of Ukrainians in Crimea; and restore property rights of those deprived by "nationalization" [paras 48-55]. The Secretary-General noted that the Secretariat consistently reaffirms the commitment of the UN to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders [para 46].



Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page