UN Human Rights Council to investigate Russian violations in Ukraine


The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on March 4 adopted a resolution to establish an Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate charges of gross violations by Russian forces in Ukraine. After holding a moment of silence for Ukrainian victims, HRC members passed the resolution overwhelmingly, in a 32–2 vote. Among the 32 countries voting in favor of the resolution were France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, the UK, and the US. The only two countries voting against were Russia and Eritrea. Several other countries, including Bolivia, Cameroon, China, and Cuba, abstained.

The resolution strongly condemns “the human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law resulting from the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.” It also calls on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Pursuant to the resolution, the HRC president will appoint three human rights experts to the newly established investigative commission. These experts must:

investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and related crimes, in the context of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, and to establish the facts, circumstances, and root causes of any such violations and abuses; and to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to ending impunity and ensuring accountability.

Prior to the Council’s vote, over 18 countries and several organizations commented on the resolution, which Ukraine presented to the HRC. The Council noted that during the debate, speakers “said they stood in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and expressed deep concerns about the situation in Ukraine.” Speakers also called on the HRC to “send the message that there would be no impunity for the crimes of Russia” and “to suspend Russia’s Council membership.” Speakers also accused Vladimir Putin of being a “war criminal” who “must be held accountable for his crimes against humanity.”

Earlier this week, US lawmakers introduced a resolution calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ) to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHRhas confirmed 802 civilian casualties in Ukraine during the first week of the conflict. Among those casualties, 249 were killed and 553 injured.

From Jurist, March 5. Used with permission.

Note: Also March 4, the General Assembly voted in an emergency session to condemn the “Aggression against Ukraine.” The HRC voted to hold an emergency debate on the situation Feb. 28, after the ICC warned of possible war crimes in Ukraine.

Photo of Kharkiv’s Freedom Square via Twitter

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