Ambassadors D Chabert, France; U Konig, Germany; R Varga van Kibed, Netherlands; F Nogales Alvarez, Spain; S Kyslytsya, Ukraine; P Cavendish, EU Delegation; and High Commissioner H Cross, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
THE ENTIRE world is a witness, not only to the unprovoked savage military assault on Ukrainian sovereignty, but also to Putin’s attack on the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law (IHL), based on the 1949 fourth Geneva convention on protecting civilians in conflict and the 1977 and 2005 additional protocols.
IHL lays out the responsibilities of both state and non-state armed groups during an armed conflict. The reinforcements sought by Putin in Chechnya, Syria and elsewhere are also under the obligation to respect IHL. Respect for IHL is the responsibility of the entire chain of command and any non-respect of the four principles of international law is a matter of direct culpability.
IHL defines as fundamental principles the requirements for:
* the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid in armed conflict;
* the freedom of movement of humanitarian workers;
* the protection of civilians (including medical and humanitarian workers); and
* the protection of refugees, prisoners, the wounded and sick.
In this the fourth week of Putin’s unsuccessful attempt to subdue Ukraine, there is a mountain of evidence of atrocities against civilians. Having failed to achieve a “quick and easy” takeover and being unable to successfully conduct mobile warfare, Putin is using his military to bombard heavily populated areas, such as Kharkiv and Mariupol. Ukrainian civilians are bearing the brunt of these assaults as Putin seeks to cow Ukraine into submission.
Putin’s forces are not upholding the protection due to innocent civilians and humanitarian and medical workers. In fact they are actively targeting them.
The massive deliberate and targeted aggression committed by Russian armed forces against civilians is a humanitarian catastrophe and the accompanying atrocities constitute war crimes, with the bombing of shelters and refuges and attacks on humanitarian corridors preventing the escape of civilians.
Putin’s war has already forced more than three million people to flee to neighbouring countries, the majority of them women and children. The conflict has also created a massive internal displacement. An estimated 6.5 million people are now displaced inside Ukraine and the number keeps growing.
This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world and now the biggest movement of people since the end of World War II in European countries. According to UN estimates, the number of people potentially affected by the war could reach 18 million.
Mariupol has already become another city synonymous with Dresden, Stalingrad, Vukovar, Sarajevo and Aleppo, for the unreasonable destruction of war, and its sufferings will certainly remain in the collective memory for many generations. Other major cities and towns are also being heavily bombarded including Kyiv, Kharkiv and Sumy – without regard for civilians.
The UN International Court of Justice ordered Russia on March 16 to halt its invasion of Ukraine. The court cited that it had not seen any evidence to support the Kremlin’s justification for the war. Putin and the Russian leadership bear full responsibility for these acts of unrestrained military aggression and all the destruction and loss of life they have caused.
Most countries in the world stand with Ukraine and its people. The international community has introduced unprecedented sanctions in response to Putin’s war. They are hitting his regime hard and this will continue.
The vast majority of Latin America and the Caribbean countries, notably Caricom, have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Together we are standing on the right side of history, with a sovereign, free nation. We call on those governments that have not yet spoken out in public to join us and to bear testament to respect for humanitarian law and its values, and to stand with the people of Ukraine.