Ukraine: the concerns of the UN Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide


Alice Nderitu called for these prevention and accountability efforts, “as already done in public, in private and during [ses] meetings with many Member States”, in a briefing on incitement to violence leading to atrocity crimes delivered to Council members.

She also echoed a measure of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of March 16, 2022 concerning the allegations of genocide on Ukrainian territory.

Echoing the words of the Court, namely that “States parties must fulfill their obligations to prevent and punish the crime of genocide in good faith and in accordance with international law”, Ms. Nderitu also underlined that the Human Rights Council had concluded the work of its 49th session by creating a commission of inquiry into the allegations of human rights violations in Ukraine, in order to establish the facts and circumstances, and to “collect and analyze evidence.

Ms. Nderitu then recalled the well-defined framework of her mission. As serious as the allegations of genocide or war crimes in Ukraine may be, its mandate is to prevent genocide, not to deliver justice. Its job is not to conduct investigations or determine the relevance of accusations: “my main role is to prevent and not to dispense justice”, to “raise awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide”, to “put in place early warning” and to “prevent hate speech”, insisted the Special Adviser.

Social networks and religious leaders reminded of their responsibilities

Ms. Nderitu spoke in this regard of the work carried out by her team with information and communication technology companies, in particular those specializing in social networks, to “bring them face to face with their responsibilities with regard to widespread hate speech on their platforms”, and for them to “respect and reinforce international human rights standards”.

She also mentioned “religious leaders” calling on them to use their influence to diffuse tensions rather than stoke them.

The Adviser also recalled that since the start of the conflict, the Secretary-General had been there and had called for a ceasefire and an end to hostilities, repeating that there was no solution to the conflict without the use of diplomacy.

Ms. Nderitu also quoted many UN experts referring to Ukraine as “increasing risks of sexual and gender-based violence as well as trafficking, with their heavy consequences on women and girls”.

“All States must fulfill their obligations”, she supported, encouraging “intercommunity dialogue”, and calling for redoubled efforts to build a path towards peace.

“Russia wants to destroy Ukraine”

Speaking in turn to the members of the Council, Liubov Tsybulska, representing Ukrainian civil society, did not mince his words when referring to Russia’s responsibilities in “the biggest war in Europe since the Second World War” .

“Russia wants to destroy Ukraine,” she said, adding that this meant not only killing and raping, but also “eliminating everything that shapes our identity.” Tracing the course of history, she drew a parallel with the Holodomor, “this mass famine during which the Soviets killed more than seven million Ukrainians by deliberately depriving them of food”; “the murder and torture of Ukrainian writers, artists and architects in the 1930s”; “mass deportations in the 1960s of Ukrainian dissidents forcibly sent to labor camps in the Soviet Union”.

Faced with an “aggression”, explained Ms. Tsybulska, Ukrainian society first wanted to tell the truth to “ordinary” Russians, through testimonies, photos and videos. “We thought that when the Russians saw all these atrocities, they would definitely condemn this war.” She explains, however, that Ukrainians have been met with a “complete lack of compassion”, with a majority of Russians not condemning the war crimes reported in Ukraine but “totally supporting”, on the contrary, the actions of the Russian army.

“The Kremlin media have created an alternate reality”

Speaking of “genocidal rhetoric,” she said she and her colleagues created a database aimed at demonstrating the systematic nature of the demonization of Ukrainians. At the same time, she noted, the Russian media imposes on Russians the narrative that they are victims, with the whole world pitted against them: “so they have the right to preemptively defend themselves,” she said. she explains.

For Ms. Tsybulska, Russia is a “totalitarian state” whose regime gives its citizens, through the media, permission to “kill, torture and rape”.

To induce them, she argues, Russia has been claiming for years that it is protecting Russian-speaking populations from Ukrainian “Nazis”.

“Yet, tens of thousands of people found in the Mariupol mass graves spoke Russian”, she noted, welcoming that “so much evidence of Russian war crimes has already been collected”.

Ms. Tsybulska finally considered it very important to understand that from the Russian point of view, this threat concerns “the whole of the Western world”, described by Russian state media as “the enemy”, due to “the erosion its moral values” and “NATO’s aggressive intentions”.

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