The United Nations rights chief said on Thursday that the scale of death and destruction in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol suggests grave breaches of international law, warning the horrors would mark future generations. Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet painted a grim picture of one of the bloodiest chapters of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“Between February and the end of April, Mariupol was probably the deadliest place in Ukraine,” she said, in an update on the situation in the strategic port city, now held by Moscow.
“The intensity and extent of hostilities, destruction, death and injury strongly suggest that serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of international human rights law have occurred,” he said. she declared. Russia declared victory in May in its months-long operation to capture Mariupol, after Ukraine ordered the last of its soldiers holed up in the city’s steelworks to lay down their arms. The three months of battles sent hundreds of thousands of people running for their lives and caused untold suffering and death.
Bachelet said his staff had verified 1,348 civilian deaths in the city, including 70 children. “These deaths were caused by airstrikes, tank and artillery fire and small arms and light weapons in street fighting,” she added.
But she acknowledged that “the actual number of dead in hostilities among civilians is probably several thousand higher.”
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The rights office estimated that up to 90% of Mariupol’s residential buildings had been damaged or destroyed and around 350,000 people had been forced to leave the city. Moscow’s offensive on Mariupol has prompted multiple war crimes charges, including attacks on a maternity hospital and a theater, where hundreds of women and children, mostly women and children, had taken refuge.
Bachelet said the theatrical attack “stands out among the deadliest and most iconic examples of civilian harm.” While the shelling has now subsided, Bachelet warned that residents left behind “struggle daily with limited access to basic public services and social services, such as medical care”.
The top UN rights official warned that “the horrors inflicted on the civilian population will leave an indelible mark, including on generations to come”. About parents who had to bury their own children, about people who watched their friends commit suicide, about families torn apart, about everyone who had to leave a beloved city with uncertain prospects of seeing it again.”
(with agency contributions)
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