Russia’s abuses against civilians in the occupied territories of Ukraine: event during the UN Human Rights Council

A+ A-

A side event “Russia’s Abuses Against Civilians in the Occupied Territories of Ukraine” will take place during the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council on March 12 at 12h CET.  It is co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch, Human Rights House Foundation, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Physicians for Human Rights, Ukraine 5 AM Coalition, Human Rights Centre ZMINA and Media Initiative for Human Rights.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, war crimes and other abuses, committed by Russian forces in Ukraine have been documented by international, regional and national bodies and brought to the attention of a range of accountability mechanisms. For example, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine found “continuous evidence that Russian armed forces are committing war crimes in Ukraine, including unlawful attacks with explosive weapons, attacks harming civilians, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and attacks on energy infrastructure”.

Due to limited access to much of Ukraine’s occupied territory, abuses against civilians in these regions remain less understood. Russian forces and representatives of the Russian Federation in the occupied territories continue to subject the civilian population to murder, unlawful imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, sexual violence, filtration and other inhumane acts, and coercive “passportization process”, linked to restrictions on access to health care and social benefits, as a means to suppress resistance and instill fear.

It is crucial that the international community prioritize th investigation of and accountability for Russia’s numerous violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in these occupied territories, including the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of civilians.

At this side event Ukrainian and international civil society organizations will discuss the devastating impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine on the civilian population in temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, including grave human rights abuses and the coercive methods of the Russian authorities designed to suppress dissent. It will also be an opportunity to hear directly from a victim of such abuses and groups working with witnesses and survivors.


  • Yelyzaveta Sokurenko, Head of War Crimes Documentation, Human Rights Centre ZMINA
  • Tetiana Omelianenko, the mother of a civilian hostage from Berdyansk, Zaporizhzhia region
  • Lyubov Smachylo, Analyst, Media Initiative for Human Rights
  • Gerald Staberock, Secretary General, World Organisation Against Torture
  • Uliana Poltavets, Ukraine Emergency Response Coordinator, Physicians for Human Rights

Moderator: Lucy McKernan, Human Rights Watch