NEW YORK: The UN’s human rights chief on Thursday called on Russia to immediately halt its military assault on Ukraine, which she said violates international law and endangers countless civilian lives.
Michelle Bachelet, the organization’s high commissioner for human rights, said she is deeply alarmed by the actions of the Russian Federation in ordering the attack.
“Civilians in various parts of Ukraine were awoken by sounds of heavy bombardment and are terrified of further escalation, with many fleeing their homes,” she said as she urged Moscow to end the offensive.
“States that fail to take all reasonable measures to settle their international disputes by peaceful means fall short of complying with their obligation to protect the right to life.”
There were reports on Thursday morning of military strikes close to densely populated major cities including Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Odesa, Mariupol and the capital, Kyiv.
“The protection of the civilian population must be a priority. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas should — at all costs — be avoided,” Bachelet said.
She also reiterated the importance of respecting the principles of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
“In the conduct of hostilities, the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions must be fully respected, in particular by taking all required measures to protect the civilian population and civilian objects from the effects of the hostilities,” she said.
Underscoring the importance of a parallel “information war” that she said is underway, Bachelet also stressed the importance of verifying all reports of human rights violations, including civilian casualties and damage to civilian property and critical infrastructure.