Attacks on hospitals and health care in Ukraine: Joint submission to the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, September 2022 – Ukraine

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In a new joint submission to the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine (IICIU), four independent NGOs call on the Commission to investigate the ongoing attacks on hospitals and health workers in Ukraine perpetrated by Russian forces, which constitute flagrant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

The four organizations – Ukrainian Health Center (UHC), Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), eyeWitness to Atrocities and Insecurity Insight – highlight seven health facilities in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy that have been subjected to particular violence serious and well documented. attacks during the first month of the full-scale invasion. Since February 24, 2022, the World Health Organization has reported more than 500 attacks on health facilities, personnel and transport, killing more than 200 people. During the period March 1-21, UHC reports that five to six health facilities were attacked each day.

The organizations write:

“The evident pattern of violence against health care will continue to have serious negative consequences for the safety, health and rights of Ukrainians for many years to come. We urge the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine to investigate these violations and to ensure that the attacks on hospitals and health facilities form an important part of the Commission’s analysis of the events committed in the aforementioned regions of Ukraine between the end of February and March 2022.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council formed the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine on March 4, 2022, consisting of three human rights experts working over an initial period of one year. The mandate of the IICIU is “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as related crimes in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by the Federation of Russia, and to establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of any such violations and abuses”, as well as “to make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, all with a view to ending the impunity and ensuring accountability, including, where appropriate, individual criminal responsibility, and access to justice for victims”, among several other actions.

All attacks on health care warrant investigation and accountability. In the joint submission, the four organizations highlight seven specific facilities that were violently attacked following the large-scale invasion of Russia:

  • Makariv Primary Care Clinic (Kyiv Oblast)
    • The clinic was flattened after being attacked on March 28, following the advance of Russian troops from the north, apparently with mortar fire.
  • Adonis Medical Center (Makariv, Kyiv Oblast)
    • The pattern of attacks on Adonis Hospital and its surroundings suggests that they were damaged in a series of airstrikes, part of a series of large indiscriminate attacks from the north.
  • Vorzel Regional Center for Psychiatric Care (Kyiv Oblast)
    • The facility was occupied by Russian forces for 35 days and reportedly suffered indiscriminate shelling. As Russian troops retreated from the town, the facility was strewn with mines, its medical equipment, drugs and medical devices were looted, and all nine service cars were damaged.
  • Chernihiv Regional Children’s Hospital (Chernihiv Oblast)
    • The hospital was shelled by Russian forces on March 17. Cluster munitions appear to have been used. Fourteen civilians were reportedly killed and 21 others injured as a result of the attack.
  • Primary care centers in Kyinka (Chernihiv Oblast)
    • Both facilities were repeatedly bombed during the Siege of Chernihiv. The nature of the damage suffered suggests that the bombings were random, unrelated to specific recognizable military targets, and involved the frequent use of cluster bombs.
  • Izyum Central Hospital (Kharkiv Oblast)
    • On March 6, the facility was attacked in what appears to have been a large-scale bombing campaign. Apparently, the hospital team had also marked the hospital with a large red cross visible from the air.
  • Trostyanets City Hospital (Sumy Oblast)
    • The hospital suffered numerous attacks over the weeks, including an allegedly targeted attack on March 18, continued shelling over the following days, a stolen ambulance and Russian tanks attacking the facility.

See the full submission for more details and background on each attack. The submission is based on information gathered from a variety of sources, including open source documents, site visits conducted by the UHC, local witness statements, remote interviews with Ukrainian civil society colleagues and photo and video footage collected by the UHC with the “eyewitness”. to atrocities”.

The organizations also call on the Commission to investigate the gendered impacts of the attacks on health, as the destruction of health facilities can lead to limited access to reproductive care, forced pregnancy, mental health problems and barriers to care. prevention and specialized services for women and girls, including for victims of sexual or gender-based violence.

The widespread and systematic nature of Russia’s assault on Ukraine’s healthcare system is an extension of the strategy it deployed to devastating effect in Syria and Chechnya. To date, no one has been held accountable for these wanton violations of international law. In their new joint submission, the four organizations call on the IICIU to include attacks on health care in its ongoing investigations and recommendations into broader human rights abuses in Ukraine, and that these cases be given priority. The IICIU is due to publish its first brief report on the human rights situation in Ukraine on Friday 23 September. Each of the above incidents is detailed in the new UHC report. “Massive, brutal, deliberate: attacks on hospitals during the Russian-Ukrainian war during the first phase of the invasion”, which offers more in-depth documentation and analysis of these and other attacks against hospitals and healthcare clinics. Individual incidents can also be viewed on Insecurity Insight’s interactive healthcare attacks map.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and serious human rights violations. Learn more here.

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