As noted by Security Council Report, on 24th February, the Security Council is expected to hold a high-level debate on the situation in Ukraine to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country.
Key topics below
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OHCHR report on summary executions and attacks on civilians (15 December 2022);
Visit by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine (7 December 2022);
Conclusion of COI’s 10th Mission to Ukraine (2 December 2022) and upcoming report, as well as its recent oral update and written report;
Special Tribunal on the crime of aggression;
OSCE Chairman-in-Office visit in Ukraine (16 January 2023);
UNICEF statement on the International Day of Education (24 January 2023);
Human Rights Watch report on the use of banned landmines (31 January 2023);
UNODC 2022 report on trafficking (24 January 2023).
Recent briefings in the Security Council [321 words]
ASG for Human Rights (17 January 2023);
USG for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (13 January 2023).
Comments by Members of the Security Council [810 words]
Security Council meeting on 17 January 2023: Albania, France, Ghana, Malta, Switzerland and the US.
Security Council meeting on 13 January 2023: Gabon, Ghana, Japan, Malta and the UAE.
Human Rights Council meeting on 15 December 2022: Albania, France, Switzerland, the UK and the US.
Relevant information for the Security Council to consider [922 words]
On 15 December 2022, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk, presented to the Human Rights Council a report focused on summary executions and attacks on individual civilians by Russian armed forces. In his opening statement, he noted that there are strong indications that the summary executions documented in the report may constitute the war crime of willful killing. He highlighted accountability as “one of the remedies to heal the wounds of war.” In reference to the killings, he noted that his Office could not identify any case in which a member of the Russian armed forces was held accountable by Russian authorities.
In his closing remarks [1:55:30], the High Commissioner welcomed what the Ukrainian Government was doing to investigate and prosecute war crimes, referring to over 46,000 criminal proceedings that they have opened against members of the Russian armed forces. He emphasized the importance of resources, documentation and capacity-building of forensic expertise. He called for care for survivors and programs to provide reparations to victims without waiting for the outcomes of legal proceedings, including psycho-social support for children. He recalled that there are ways to evacuate those in vulnerable situations, including persons with disabilities and older persons. He also stated the need to provide adequate housing and community-based services, especially taking into account those with reduced mobility or chronic health conditions, as well as children. He recalled that despite repeated requests, his Office has no access to visit the unaccompanied children in institutional care or remaining in camps, both in Russia and in occupied areas.
The NGO Human Rights House Foundation [1:42:05] called to do more to secure the freedom of all people unjustly detained and disappeared in Ukraine, including in Crimea.
On 7 December 2022, at the conclusion of the visit by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine, he spoke of “a catalogue of cruelty.” He noted that each day they received information about war crimes. The scale of civilian casualties, as well as the significant damage and destruction to civilian objects – including hospitals and schools – was shocking. The latest update report by his Office’s Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine covered the period of August-October 2022.
On 2 December 2022, the Commission of Inquiry concluded its 10th Mission in Ukraine. The Commission will present a comprehensive report to the Human Rights Council on 20 March 2023 (TBC). The report will make recommendations concerning the various possible mechanisms of accountability. It will also further detail the destruction of civilian infrastructure. In addition, the Commissioners expressed concerns about violations to the personal integrity of children and challenges in access to education as many schools were destroyed and online education is also compromised when there is no energy.
The Commission of Inquiry recalled the submission of an oral update to the Human Rights Council on 23 September 2022 and a written report to the General Assembly on 18 October 2022, documenting war crimes, the vast majority of which were committed by Russian armed forces. In its oral update, the Commission recalled finding that some Russian Federation soldiers committed acts of sexual and gender-based violence against victims in the age range of four to 82 years.
The establishment of a Special Tribunal on the crime of aggression is being discussed in various fora, including at the UN. To promote accountability, a proposed Special Tribunal may be the only avenue for prosecuting decision-makers for the crime of aggression, which is considered a leadership crime. This would be complementary to other avenues for promoting accountability, including domestic war crimes trials in Ukraine; trials in States with universal jurisdiction provisions; and the investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
On 16 January 2023, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, Mr. Bujar Osmani, completed his visit to Kyiv. He stated that Ukraine would be a top priority for their Chairpersonship. They will engage and use the toolbox of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to actively seek a way to restore peace and the full respect of OSCE principles and commitments. The new OSCE Support Programme for Ukraine consists of several, multidimensional projects aimed at supporting the civilian population affected by the war and further strengthening Ukraine’s institutions.
On 24 January 2023, International Day of Education, UNICEF warned that the war has put at risk education and the future of children in Ukraine. Some 5.3 million children face barriers preventing access to education, including 3.6 million children directly affected by school closures. This places children in Ukraine at risk of losing critical years of schooling and social development. Since war began, over 2,600 schools have been damaged and over 400 destroyed across Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Education.
On 31 January 2023, Human Rights Watch published a report on the use of banned landmines by both Russia and Ukraine. The use of anti-personnel mines violates IHL because they cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants. It was noted that currently, there is no systematic reporting on the number of anti-personnel mine incidents and victims, nor is there any aggregated casualty information publicly available. Ukraine committed to studying the report.
UNODC’s 2022 report on trafficking in persons, published on 24 January, showed the increased risks to Ukrainians. The percentage of Ukrainians among trafficking victims and survivors in Europe greatly increased following the Russian invasion in 2014. It is estimated that Russia's invasion in 2022 may result in more than 100,000 victims from Ukraine to Europe only (page 56).
Recent briefings in the Security Council [321 words]
On 17 January 2023, ASG for Human Rights, Ms. Ilze Brands Kehris, stated in her briefing to the Security Council: “The armed attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and the ensuing hostilities have brought the most severe forms of human rights and international humanitarian law violations into the everyday lives of people in Ukraine, putting at risk countless lives, causing massive displacement and destruction of civilian infrastructure.” She further noted that Russia’s targeting Ukrainian critical infrastructure severely restricted civilians’ access to water, electricity, essential communications, and heating, thereby severely compromising the enjoyment of the rights to health, to an adequate standard of living and the right to life. She urged all parties to ensure full compliance with IHL principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, as well as the principle of special protection accorded to children.
On 13 January 2023, USG for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Ms. Rosemary A. DiCarlo stated at the Security Council: “Fueling the displacement is the purposeful, systematic targeting of critical civilian infrastructure, including energy and healthcare facilities… The number of recorded attacks on healthcare facilities last year was the highest in the world. There were 745 incidents as of 4 January. …Since 24 February, OHCHR has documented over 90 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, falling into two categories: (1) The majority as a method of torture and ill-treatment in detention, predominantly affecting men; and (2) sexual violence involving rape, including gang rape, of women and girls in areas under Russian control. …As the Prosecutor [of the ICC] has indicated in his briefings to the Council, the alleged targeting of civilian objects and the unlawful transfer and deportation of civilians, including children, from Ukraine to the Russian Federation, are the investigative priorities of his Office.” In closing, she stated that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe, traumatized a generation of children, and accelerated the global food and energy crises.
Comments by Members of the Security Council [810 words]
The Security Council meeting on 17 January 2023 was convened upon the request of the Russian Federation, with a focus on freedom of religion. In this regard, some concerns were expressed regarding hate speech, particularly by religious leaders, as well as the destruction of religious sites.
Albania recalled that the lack of respect for human rights is very often the primary source for tensions, violence and conflicts.
France condemned the forced displacement of civilians, which may also involve children, and sexual violence committed by the Russian army. France expressed appreciation for the work of the COI, the Ukrainian justice system, the ICC and OHCHR.
Ghana, concerned by the attack on 14 January on a residential facility in Dnipro, reemphasized that attacks against civilians are expressly prohibited under international law. To recall, the Secretary-General had condemned that missile strike, stating that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure violate IHL. Ghana urged international support to ensure accountability for that and the many other humanitarian and human rights violations. Ghana also called for redress through the Human Rights Council and the Council of Europe.
Malta recalled the plight of refugees, the internally displaced women who are falling victim to sexual violence and children, who are being deprived of their education and childhood. Malta emphasized the need to respect IHL and IHRL and hold to account those responsible for atrocity crimes.
Switzerland recalled obligations under IHL, including making a distinction between military targets and civilian objects, and that intentional attacks on civilians or civilian objects constitute war crimes. Switzerland also recalled the principles of proportionality and precaution. It was concerned about human rights violations reported by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 7 December, including summary executions, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, as well as conflict-related sexual violence.
The US cautioned that the use of disinformation, including with regard to the pretext for the meeting, detracts from critically important efforts combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial. It expressed concern about the safety of all religious communities in areas under Russia’s control.
During the Security Council meeting on 13 January 2023, several Members called to ensure accountability for all war crimes, including sexual violence. They condemned the attacks on critical infrastructure, which some termed as the weaponization of food and energy, compounding civilian suffering in the winter, in violation of IHL.
Gabon called to refrain from using weapons whose indiscriminate effects inflict atrocious suffering on civilians.
Ghana condemned the deliberate attacks on civilians and humanitarian workers. Ghana further condemned all abuses and violations of human rights arising from the war and reiterated its call for thorough, transparent and independent investigations into all such reports.
Japan called to hold to account those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities, including sexual and gender-based violence.
Malta highlighted the disproportionate impact on children, their education and their safety. It expressed concern about Russia’s forcibly moving children into its country, denying them the right to family life. Malta also referred to the harrowing testimonies of rape, torture and trafficking, confirmed by the Commission of Inquiry. Malta urged rigorous and swift action with respect to accountability, investigations, prosecutions, compensation, reparations and service provision that is survivor-centered, rights-based and trauma-informed.
The UAE echoed concerns about the essential services not spared by the war and expressed concern about the increased turmoil in the global supply chain and the food and energy crisis.
Following the presentation of OHCHR’s report on summary executions and attacks on civilians in the Human Rights Council on 15 December 2022, a few Security Council Members highlighted the importance of documenting the crimes, in order to hold those responsible to account and prevent impunity (view webcast).
Albania [1:24:45] noted that the report continued to confirm atrocity crimes committed by Russian forces, in blatant violation of the UN Charter and international law. Albania stressed the need for truth, justice and reparations for the victims, in addition to ensuring accountability.
France [1:07:15] condemned the attacks on energy infrastructure and placing nuclear power stations at risk.
Switzerland [36:10] called to stop attacks on civilians, civilian facilities and critical infrastructure. It appreciated the report’s contribution to the right to truth – victims’ right to justice, reparations and guarantees for non-repetition.
The UK [1:13:15] was particularly concerned by the evidence in the report that Russian forces are conducting systematic torture and killing of civilians. The UK referred to Russia’s attacks denying Ukrainians of the most basic necessities, in violation of IHL and IHRL.
The US [1:26:13] noted that summary executions were strongly indicated in the report as constituting the war crime of willful killing. The Ambassador was horrified to read that torture and sexual violence took place before some of the killings. The US strongly condemned the attacks on infrastructure that civilians relied on for power, water and heat, effectively adding freezing to starvation as a weapon of war.