UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres File photo

Ukraine: UN Secretary-General Guterres calls for probe into Bucha killings

New York, April 5, 2022

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday called for an independent investigation into the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv.

Images have emerged of bodies found in streets and in yards in the wake of Russian withdrawal from the area following weeks of intense fighting, according to international media reports.

“I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine,” said Guterres in a tersely worded statement.

“It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.”

The UN continues to press for an end to the war in Ukraine, which the Secretary-General has described as "unwinnable".

Conflict began on 24 February, when Russia invaded the country. Since then, 3,455 civilian casualties have been recorded, according to the latest update from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, published on Sunday.

Of that number, 1,417 persons were killed, and 2,038 injured, though real figures are believed to be considerably higher.

Most casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes.

Posting on Twitter on Friday, Guterres said the UN “is doing everything in its power to support people whose lives have been overturned by the war in Ukraine.”

Humanitarians have reached more than 1.4 million people, mainly in the east, “but this is not enough”, he said. “We need safe, unimpeded access to all areas.”

The fighting has displaced more than 10 million people, both within the country and outside its borders as refugees.

“The speed of the displacement, coupled with the huge numbers of people affected, is unprecedented in Europe in recent memory,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, on concluding a visit to Ukraine last week.

To respond to the rising humanitarian needs, the UN and partners launched a $1.7 billion emergency appeal last month to support people in Ukraine and those who have fled abroad.

More than 4.1 million have found shelter in neighbouring countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, and beyond.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to hold its latest meeting on Ukraine on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, senior UN officials have echoed the Secretary-General’s call for an independent investigation into the killing of scores of civilians in Bucha.

In a statement on Monday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was horrified by the images of people lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves.

“Reports emerging from this and other areas, raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law,” she said.

Bachelet called for all bodies to be exhumed and identified so that the victims’ families can be informed, and the exact causes of death established. She added that every measure should also be taken to preserve evidence.

“It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha, to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families,” she said.

The UN in Ukraine has also joined the Secretary-General’s call for a probe into what happened in Bucha.

Osnat Lubrani, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, highlighted the horrifying violence against civilians in the city and in two other areas near the capital, Irpin and Hostomel, as well as in other parts of the country.

It is essential that all reports of violence against civilians are independently verified, she said, and the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is trying to visit these locations without delay.

An independent investigation is critical to determine the extent of these crimes and to ensure that perpetrators are held to account, she added.


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