GENEVA (24 February 2022) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday said she was deeply alarmed about the Russian Federation’s military attack against Ukraine.

“Civilians in various parts of Ukraine were awoken by sounds of heavy bombardment and are terrified of further escalation, with many fleeing their homes,” Bachelet said. “This military action clearly violates international law and puts at risk countless civilian lives. It must be immediately halted.”

“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,” Bachelet stressed.

Reports have emerged of military strikes near major cities with significant populations, 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.

The High Commissioner called for full respect for international humanitarian law, in particular the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their first additional protocol of 1977, as well as 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.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission remains in the country and will continue to closely monitor and report on the situation.

“An information war is also under way and it is particularly crucial at this time that we continue to closely monitor and attempt to verify reports of human rights violations, including civilian casualties, damage to civilian objects, including critical infrastructure, and other impact on human rights on the ground,” Bachelet said.