13:31 31.03.2022

UN investigating into allegations about forced evacuation of Mariupol residents to Russia

4 min read
UN investigating into allegations about forced evacuation of Mariupol residents to Russia

The UN is looking into allegations that some Mariupol residents have been forcibly evacuated, either to territory controlled by Russian-affiliated armed groups or to the Russian Federation, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said at 49th Session of the Human Rights Council.

"In the besieged city of Mariupol, people are living in sheer terror. The situation is worsening by the day, with constant shelling, fighting in the streets and people struggling to survive with the bare minimum of life’s necessities including food, water and medical supplies," she said in a statement posted on the website of the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).

Bachelet said since the beginning of the invasion, Russian armed forces have carried out attacks and military strikes on and near large cities, including Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Severodonetsk, Sumy, and Mariupol, and the capital, Kyiv.

"Across Ukraine, the rights to life, liberty and security are under attack. Detention of civilians who are vocal about their pro-Ukrainian views in territories under control of Russian forces has become widespread," she said, adding that her Office has also received allegations of killings of two civilians considered to be affiliated with Russian armed forces or supporting pro-Russian views.

She said that she is very concerned by the abundance of videos available through open sources depicting interrogations of prisoners of war that have been taken by both Ukrainian and Russian forces.

She also said that every day, many journalists are courageously fighting a crucial battle against mounting misinformation and propaganda, often putting their own lives at great risk. Seven journalists and media workers have been killed since hostilities began, and another 15 have come under armed attack, nine of whom were injured. "We have also documented the arbitrary detention and the possible enforced disappearance of 22 journalists and civil society activists who have been vocal against the invasion in Kyiv, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhia regions," Bachelet said.

She said that the persistent use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas is of immense concern. These weapons include missiles, heavy artillery shells and rockets, and airstrikes, causing massive destruction of and damage to civilian objects. "In addition, my Office has received credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times. We are also investigating allegations that Ukrainian armed forces have used such weapons," she said.

Bachelet said that to date the UN has verified 77 incidents in which medical facilities were damaged to various degrees, including 50 hospitals, 7 psycho-neurological facilities and 20 other medical facilities. Overall, 55 medical establishments were damaged, 10 destroyed, and two were looted. Actual numbers are again likely to be considerably higher.

"In several besieged cities, my Office has noted a significant increase in mortality rates among civilians that can be attributed to disrupted medical care coupled with conflict-related deprivation and stress," she said.

She said that people with disabilities and older people face a particularly appalling humanitarian situation. Long-term care facilities are suffering a lack of food, heating, electricity, water and medication. Many residents who have chronic health conditions rely on others for care and are struggling to access bomb shelters or safe areas.

Bachelet stated that nearly a quarter of Ukraine's population have been forced to flee - over 4 million people have fled the country since the attack began, and an estimated 6.5 million are internally displaced.

"For more than one month now, the entire population of Ukraine has been enduring a living nightmare. The lives of millions of people are in upheaval as they are forced to flee their homes or hide in basements and bomb shelters as their cities are pummeled and destroyed…The hostilities must stop, without delay. Today, I call on the Russian Federation to heed the clear and strong calls of the General Assembly and of this Council, and immediately act to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory," she said.

Bachelet said that the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine will continue its vital monitoring role. Despite the very difficult security context, staff in various parts of the country continue to document civilian casualties, the impact of hostilities and violations of human rights.