On Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a draft to address and scrutinise the human rights situation in Ukraine amid Russian aggression. However, prior to the voting, India went on to express its concerns, and reiterated its constant calls for an “immediate cessation of violence”.
During the 34th Special Session of the UNHRC, the 47-member body voted on a resolution titled ‘Deterioration of the human rights situation in Ukraine caused by the Russian aggression’, introduced by Ukraine. The resolution was passed with 33 votes in favour. India was among the 12 countries that abstained from voting, while China and Eritrea voted against. The resolution also called for another mandate for the “Commission of Inquiry” that was established earlier, to particularly investigate the violations in Ukrainian cities such as Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Sumy.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet addressed the UNHRC via a video message, in which she expressed her concern over the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine, and the continued “use of explosive” weapons, heavy artillery like multiple rocket systems, missiles, and airstrikes in heavily populated areas.
She further highlighted recent findings suggesting that thousands of civilians were killed in Kyiv alone. The UN investigators in Kyiv and Chernihiv region have indicated that while some were killed in hostilities, others seemed to have been executed. Bachelet went on to say that while Russian troops are likely responsible for most of these casualties, Ukrainian soldiers have also caused casualties, but to a much lesser extent.
Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, Erik Mose said, “While this is not strictly a judicial case, one of the Commission’s mandates is to identify, where possible, responses to violations or abuses of human rights or individuals and entities responsible for international humanitarian law or other related crimes.”
Participating in the discussions that preceded the voting process, India’s Permanent Representative to Geneva, Indra Mani Pandey said, “We remain deeply concerned at the unfolding developments and have constantly called for an immediate cessation of violence and end to hostilities.”
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he added, “India continues to believe that pursuing the path of dialogue and diplomacy is the only way out. He further said, “We have strongly condemned the killings in Bucha and supported the call for an independent investigation.” India also spoke about how these women and children have been disproportionately impacted due to the conflict as they have been forced to leave the country, or have been internally displaced.
Ambassador Pandey highlighted how India has provided humanitarian aid and essential materials to Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. “We support calls to ensure free and uninterrupted humanitarian access and safe passage for the people,” he said. He went on to remind the UNHRC that India has ensured the safe return of Indian nationals and assisted 18 other countries in the process, while expressing appreciation for the help provided by authorities in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
“We call for respect and protection of human rights of people in Ukraine and reiterate our abiding commitment to global promotion and protection of human rights,” said Pandey. While India has not directly condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and its military aggression, the country has called for dialogue and diplomacy and an end to all hostilities on multiple occasions. Notably, the UN General Assembly, earlier this year, also suspended Russia from the UNHRC over alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.