On the increase in civilian casualties in the conflict zone of eastern Ukraine. Statement by Ms Matilda Bogner Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine

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I am extremely concerned with the increase in civilian casualties in the conflict zone, especially those caused by the shelling and fire from small arms and light weapons. In March of this year, our Mission [the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine] recorded two civilian deaths and 14 civilian injuries resulting from shelling and SALW fire on both sides of the contact line: two killed and 11 injured in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’, and three injured in Government-controlled territory. This is equal to the total number of such casualties over the preceding five months, from 1 October 2019 to 29 February 2020 (one killed and 15 injured). Civilians also continue to be killed and injured in mine-related incidents and as a result of handling of explosive remnants of war.

It is important to remember that all parties to the conflict are bound by international humanitarian law, including the obligations relating to the conduct of hostilities, governed by the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution, at all times.

  • Distinction, the parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants; attacks must not be directed against civilians;

  • Proportionality, launching an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited; and

  • Precautions in attack, in the conduct of military operations, constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects; all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid, and in any event to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.

Responsibility to comply with these principles is both with immediate participants of hostilities and with their commanders.

I am further highly concerned by reports about the death of a civilian woman and injury of a civilian man yesterday in the village of Shyroka Balka (Donetsk region), allegedly as a result of a strike from an unmanned aerial vehicle. While we are working on corroborating the details of this incident, I would like to recall in this regard that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is subject to the above principles. UAV operators must strictly abide by these principles to spare civilian lives and objects.

Next week, the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine that has already taken more than 3,500 civilian lives, will enter its seventh year. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission calls on all parties involved in the hostilities in Donetsk and Luhansk regions to undertake maximal efforts to abide by the laws and customs of war and to achieve a sustainable ceasefire. Civilian deaths and injuries must stop.