Lyudmyla Denisova, human rights commission of the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament: “Rebuilding is complicated: chaos and panic make it impossible to know the truth.” The figure of the “20 thousand” in Mariupol
hundred and sixteen civilians killed, 58 minors. It is the United Nations that officially documents the number of victims of the war in Ukraine. But, once again, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, wanted to underline how the death toll is likely to be much higher. On the other hand, according to the Kiev authorities, in the city of Mariupol alone, 1,300 people are still under the rubble and at least another 3,000 have been injured. Numbers that do not correspond to those provided by the municipal authorities that speak of zero deaths and one seriously injured. For the whole city on Thursday a death toll of 20,000 was assumed. In this framework, in Rynok Square, the central square of Lviv, they were installed yesterday 130 empty wheelchairs. “They symbolize our children killed in the conflict, ”he stressed Lyudmyla Denisova of the Human Rights Commission of the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament.
Why are the civilian casualty figures so conflicting?
First of all, it must be said that the UN agency in charge, the United Nations human rights office, Ohchr, is also verifying information on 1,252 injured. But not only. In many of the areas affected by the Russian raids, communications are controlled or cut off. Therefore, reconstructing exactly what happened is very complicated. And the fog of warthe fog of war, as analysts define it, which, thanks to chaos and panic, makes it impossible to know the truth.
If the images of mass graves full of bodies and the rubble of civil buildings hit by the raids suggest that Bachelet, unfortunately, is not mistaken, then where is the truth?
Data is not always fully transmitted from hospitals and morgues, which are themselves under attack. It happened, for example, on February 28, when Russian troops began bombing the city of Kharkiv. Initial reports cited a Facebook message posted by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, which spoke of “dozens of people” who died in Russian missile attacks. This figure has been relaunched by dozens of international news outlets, although the tally of that attack has since been widely ascertained as 10 victims. It happened and is happening in Mariupol. In order to have a data that is close to reality, one must then turn to third parties.
How does the United Nations count the dead?
The Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (Hrmmu) has been active since 2014. Since 24 February, most of the personnel have now been deployed and are unable to visit the sites of the incidents and to interrogate victims and witnesses. This means using other sources of information, including contacts and partners on the ground. Following the principle that this count must be done because the data on the victims are not just a collection of abstract numbers but represent individual human beings. Counting them is crucial to then seek responsibility and give dignity to each of the victims.
How did these people die?
Most of the civilian deaths recorded have been caused by the use of explosive weapons over a large impact area, including heavy artillery shelling and multi-launch missile systems, missiles and air strikes. The Russian raids have been documented by an almost infinite stream of images describing the growing cost in terms of human lives and which is also characterized by the type of target chosen: an air attack on a maternity ward; cluster bombs on a nursery school; and a trench full of bodies that becomes one of the first mass graves. Images that go down in history. And that they will also help the international courts to ascertain the truth about these war crimes.
At what point are the proceedings before the international courts?
Ukraine has initiated 1,833 criminal proceedings to investigate crimes committed by the Russian military in the country. And she says she has already collected two thousand complaints. In an exclusive interview with Cnn, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan explained that he left for Ukraine because he has reasonable grounds to think that war crimes were committed in the Russian attack. This is after Moscow refused The Hague’s request to suspend military operations.