Senior UN officials have echoed the Secretary-General’s call for an independent investigation into the killing of scores of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, following the emergence this past weekend of graphic images from the suburb of the capital, Kyiv.
In a statement on Monday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was horrified by the images of people lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves.
“Reports emerging from this and other areas, raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law,” she said.
Bachelet called for all bodies to be exhumed and identified so that the victims’ families can be informed, and the exact causes of death established. She added that every measure should also be taken to preserve evidence.
“It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha, to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families,” she said.
The UN in Ukraine has also joined the Secretary-General’s call for a probe into what happened in Bucha.
Osnat Lubrani, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, highlighted the horrifying violence against civilians in the city and in two other areas near the capital, Irpin and Hostomel, as well as in other parts of the country.
It is essential that all reports of violence against civilians are independently verified, she said, and the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is trying to visit these locations without delay.
An independent investigation is critical to determine the extent of these crimes and to ensure that perpetrators are held to account, she added.
Lubrani recalled that for UN Member States, protection of civilians is a “bedrock” of their commitments to people worldwide, and in times of war they are further bound to commitments agreed under the Geneva Conventions.
“We will continue to closely monitor and report on attacks on schools, hospitals, medical workers and other civilian infrastructure, on the use of heavy weapons in residential areas and on the denial of humanitarian access,” she said, speaking on behalf of the UN in Ukraine.
The country’s people “have been enduring the living hell of war for more than a month”, and the UN has called for humanitarian pauses so that civilians can leave safely, and aid workers can deliver life-saving relief supplies.
“We continue to call for a ceasefire and peace in Ukraine,” said Ms. Lubrani. “We know that words alone cannot comfort the loss of loved ones or replace action. This deadly war needs to stop: that is the only way to end this pointless loss of life and suffering.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, UN agencies and partners have so far reached more than 1.4 million people with critical assistance.
A $1.1 billion humanitarian appeal to support people in the country, launched last month, is just over half funded.