According to the UN refugee agency’s portal, to date, more than 4 million people have fled Ukraine to neighbouring countries, including 2.3 million in Poland and 6,08,000 in Romania, and millions more in Moldova, Hungary, Russia and Slovakia.
Since invading Ukraine in late February, Russia has reportedly bombed a maternity ward and theatre full of civilians and blocked aid convoys trying to bring food and water to those stranded in the besieged city. Such attacks have raised concerns in the international community and are now being investigated as possible war crimes.
Credible reports indicate that Russian forces have used cluster bombs in populated areas of Ukraine, at least two dozen times since they invaded on 24 February, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet urged Russia to end its five-week invasion, adding that the entire population of Ukraine had been “enduring a living nightmare”.
“Homes and administrative buildings, hospitals and schools, water stations and electricity systems have not been spared,” she said. “Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.”
Russia has denied using such weapons or targeting civilians since launching on February 24 what it calls a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” it’s neighbour.
What are War Crimes?
War crimes are violations of the laws of war that give rise to separate criminal liability for the actions of combatants, such as intentionally killing civilians or killing POW (Prisoners of War), torture, hostage-taking, needlessly destroying civilian property, defrauding, sexual violence, wartime violence, genocide or ethnic cleansing.
The formal concept of war crimes derives from the codification of customary international law that applied to war between sovereign states, such as the Union Army Labor Code (1863) during the American Civil War and the Hague Conventions for Internationals in 1899 and 1907.
After World War II, the leaders of the Axis powers established the Nuremberg Doctrine War Crimes Tribunal, similar to the way international criminal law defines what constitutes a war crime. In 1949, the Geneva Conventions legally defined new war crimes and established that states could exercise universal jurisdiction over war criminals.