UN rights chief: ‘credible allegations’ of cluster munitions being used in Ukraine

Michelle Bachelet speaking at the Human Rights Council on Wednesday 30 March, 2022. (Credit: UNTV)

The United Nations has received credible allegations that Russian forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas of Ukraine “at least 24 times”, human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday.

Her office is also investigating similar allegations against Ukraine armed forces, she said. Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Bachelet gave a grim account of the widespread devastation and human suffering in the country since Russia’s invasion five weeks ago.

“The entire population of Ukraine has been enduring a living nightmare,” she said, calling on Russia to withdraw its troops.

At least 1,189 people have been killed and 1,901 people injured since 24 February, according to the latest figures gathered by her office’s monitoring mission in the country.

"Homes and administrative buildings, hospitals and schools, water stations and electricity systems have not been spared," she said. Her office has recorded 77 incidents where medical facilities have been damaged to some degree.

She also stressed that indiscriminate attacks against civilians or civilian objects are prohibited under international law “and may amount to war crimes”. Russia has denied targeting civilians.

“The massive destruction of civilian objects and the high number of civilian casualties strongly indicate that the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution have not been sufficiently adhered to.”

Human Rights Council president, Ambassador Federico Villegas, earlier on Tuesday announced the three experts he has appointed to lead an investigation into rights violations in Ukraine after a resolution approved by Council members earlier this month.

Erik Møse, a Norwegian judge and former president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda will lead the independent commission of inquiry.

Jasminka Džumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Pablo de Greiff of Colombia will also serve as independent members of the probe established for an initial duration of one year “to establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of any such violations and abuses” in Ukraine.