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'Most gruesome human rights violations in Europe in decades'

Addressing UN rights council, Ukraine says Russia inflicting ‘pure evil’

Top rights body set to vote on draft resolution calling for probe into alleged war crimes by Moscow since invasion’s start, with a view to holding those responsible to account

Volunteers load bodies of civilians killed in Bucha onto a truck to be taken to a morgue for investigation, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Volunteers load bodies of civilians killed in Bucha onto a truck to be taken to a morgue for investigation, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

GENEVA, Switzerland — Kyiv condemned the “sheer horror” and “pure evil” of Russia’s war in Ukraine at an extraordinary meeting Thursday of the United Nations Human Rights Council about Moscow’s alleged violations.

Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova said Russia was committing “the most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades,” as countries slammed the conduct of President Vladimir Putin’s troops.

The UN’s top rights body will vote on a draft resolution calling for an investigation into alleged violations since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, with a view to holding those responsible to account.

More than 50 countries backed Kyiv’s request for a special session of the UN’s top rights body to examine “the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression.”

Russia snubbed the session.

“These have been 10 weeks of sheer horror to the people of my country,” Dzhaparova said, speaking from Kyiv.

Klavidia, 91, is carried on an improvised stretcher as she boards a train, fleeing the fighting in Severodonetsk at a train station in Pokrovsk, Ukraine, on April 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

“Torture and enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence; the list of Russia’s crimes is endless.

“Only the world standing strong in solidarity with the Ukrainian people can defeat this pure evil.”

Russia’s chair empty

Russia was among the 47 council members until the UN General Assembly in New York voted on April 7 to suspend it from the body and from sitting in judgment of other nations’ human rights records.

Russia then immediately withdrew from the council.

It was the first meeting of the body since then to address the situation in Ukraine.

Now an ordinary observer, Russia was offered the floor but its chair was left vacant.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Tuesday that Moscow “will not legitimize with its presence this new political show.”

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told the council that her office was verifying allegations of international human rights and humanitarian law violations, “many of which may amount to war crimes.”

People clear a residential area after a Russian airstrike in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on May 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

“The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking,” she said.

“While we have information about 300 such killings, the figures will continue to increase as new evidence becomes available. These killings of civilians often appeared to be intentional.”

US ambassador Michele Taylor said that Russia’s frustrations at being unable to defeat Ukraine militarily had led to “ever-more-egregious human rights abuses.”

She said Putin had shown an “utter disregard for human rights and human life” and urged the council’s scrutiny to expose Russia’s “continued attempts to hide atrocities.”

‘Repeated rapes’

Dzhaparova held up a picture featuring black lines which she said had been drawn by an 11-year-old boy raped in front of his mother, now only able to communicate through drawing as psychologists try to help him recover.

France’s ambassador Jerome Bonnafont, speaking for the European Union, said the EU was “shocked and appalled by the staggering scale of human rights violations” committed by Russia.

“The high numbers of brutal killings of civilians, the documented cases of repeated rapes, summary executions and enforced disappearances, as well as other incidents of unlawful violence and threats against civilians, and the large-scale targeting of civilian infrastructures show the true face of Russia’s brutal war.”

Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont, permanent representative of France to the United Nations office in Geneva, gives a speech during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the war in Ukraine, in Geneva on May 12, 2022. (Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

The Human Rights Council holds three regular sessions a year, in March, June and September.

The support of 16 council members — more than a third of the membership — is required to convene a special session.

Thursday’s session is the 34th extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body since its creation in 2006.

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