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OSCE human rights office intensifies monitoring of abuses in and around Ukraine as evidence grows [EN/RU/UK]

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WARSAW, 20 May 2022 – As the precarious security situation in Ukraine continues, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is stepping up its monitoring of the impact of the conflict on civilians and prisoners of war for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, following Russia’s military attack in Ukraine almost three months ago.

“The human impact of the military action in Ukraine is a tragedy that is still unfolding, and has already impacted millions of Ukrainian citizens forced to flee their homes” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “Experience, expertise, and empathy are needed to investigate and document the abuses taking place in and around Ukraine, and that is what ODIHR brings. Above all, our many years of impartial monitoring of democracy and human rights across the OSCE region mean that an objective assessment of violations is assured – wherever they occur and whoever is responsible.”

All parties to an armed conflict must abide by international humanitarian and human rights law, which expressly prohibits indiscriminate attacks targeting civilians and protects the civilian population at all times against violence and inhumane treatment. Parties to the conflict must also allow swift and unimpeded access of humanitarian relief to civilians in need.

After carrying out research remotely since the start of the conflict, ODIHR is now deploying monitors on the ground in Ukraine and outside of the country, conducting interviews with witnesses to violations as well as survivors. A final public report including a detailed analysis of these interviews will help efforts to ensure accountability for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

ODIHR’s monitoring is prioritising the most urgent issues affecting the lives of civilians and prisoners of war, including deliberate attacks against the civilian population, the use of indiscriminate weapons, wilful killings, enforced disappearance, and torture. At the same time, monitors are looking at the situation of internally displaced persons forced by the conflict to leave their homes but still in Ukraine. ODIHR is also investigating the situation of people in territories not under the control of the Ukrainian authorities, and the denial of humanitarian relief and of the right of civilians to flee the violence to an area of their choosing.

As the situation continues to develop, ODIHR is focusing on broader human rights issues facing the civilian population, also including human rights defenders. These include the right to liberty, access to information, respect for the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful protest, and the right to a fair trial. The use of sexual violence as a weapon and women’s and girls’ rights – which are often the first to be violated in conflict situations – also form an integral part of the monitoring.

“ODIHR’s monitoring will help to ensure accountability for the human rights violations committed and provide justice for the many victims of this terrible conflict,” Mr Mecacci added.

All OSCE countries have committed to “respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law including the protection of the civilian population” in situations of armed conflict, and to ensure “that those who violate international humanitarian law are held personally accountable”. Full accountability of the armed forces is fundamental to any democracy. At the same time, commanders also play a central role in upholding the rule of law and respect for human rights by the armed forces. The principle of individual accountability is a vital element of military leadership, underpinning respect for human rights and promoting responsible behaviour by each member of the armed forces.


OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
Public Affairs Unit
Office: +48 22 520 06 00
Fax: +48 22 520 06 05

Katya Andrusz
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)
Ul. Miodowa 10
00-251 Warsaw
Office: +48 22 520 0640
Mobile: +48 609 522 266