FIDH and CCL deplore Russia’s armed attack and occupation of Ukraine, call for action

CHRIS MCGRATH / GETTY IMAGES EUROPE / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

FIDH and its member organisation in Ukraine, the Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), condemn in the strongest terms Russia’s aggression against and occupation of Ukraine and call on all parties to the international armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law. FIDH and CCL call on the international community to respond with urgent statements and countermeasures, and urge the ICC to open an investigation into a situation under its scope for the past eight years.

On 24 February 2022, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, announced the beginning of a “special military operation” in Ukraine, kicking off an armed attack on major Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, Mariupol, and Kramatorsk, with ballistic cruise missiles and multiple rocket launchers reportedly used in the attacks.

There have been reports of civilian deaths and damage to civilian infrastructure, including major airports.

FIDH and CCL recognize that an international armed conflict is underway in Ukraine, with parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, as well as Crimea, already under Russian occupation. Parties to the conflict must respect international humanitarian law on the conduct of hostilities and the law on occupation in areas under Russia’s effective control. International human rights law continues to apply throughout Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

“Today Russia has begun a full scale invasion of Ukraine. Right now a lot depends on the quick reaction by the international community. Vladimir Putin must hear from the broadest number of stakeholders that international law will prevail. Ukrainians will fight for the values of the free world. We hope that the free world will not look on in silence."

remarked Oleksandra Matviychuk, Chairwoman of CCL.

There are reliable reports that some of the attacks have been launched from the Belarusian territory, with the participation of Belarusian armed forces.

FIDH and CCL remind all parties to the conflict that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, as well as indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited under international humanitarian law and might constitute war crimes.

The attack comes just two days after Russia’s recognition of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, the separatist entities that have been waging – with Russia’s support – a war against Ukraine’s armed forces since 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose Office has been examining the situation in Ukraine since 2014, determined in December 2020 that there was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in Ukraine; the next step would be to request the authorisation by the ICC judges to open a full-fledged investigation into the situation. FIDH and CCL call upon the ICC not to remain silent and to take action in the face of an escalating conflict and blatant violations of international law.

The recognition of separatist territories and subsequent armed attack against Ukraine constitute violations of the UN Charter Article 2(4) prohibition on the threat and use of force against the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

"Today’s attack constitutes a grave breach of peace by Russia, an ongoing violation of international law. While we stand in solidarity with Ukraine, we urge the international community to restore peace immediately and to bring parties responsible for the armed aggression against Ukraine to justice.”

stated Tolekan Ismailova, FIDH vice president.

FIDH and CCL specifically call for the adoption of an urgent UN General Assembly resolution condemning the armed attack and reminding parties to the armed conflict of their international law obligations, and for the UN Security Council to take measures to counteract the threat to international peace and security. To the extent the Security Council is not able to act, the General Assembly should intervene in accordance with the 3 November 1950 “Uniting for Peace Resolution.” FIDH and its member also call on Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC and thereby recognize the full jurisdiction of the Court.

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