Rights Group Urges Russia To Allow Civilians Out Of Mariupol, Calls On UN To Do More
By RFE/RL April 26, 2022
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Russian forces that are now in control of most of Ukraine's besieged port of Mariupol to make sure that civilians that are still trapped in the strategic city are permitted to safely transfer to Ukrainian-controlled territory.
Mariupol has been besieged by Russian forces since March 2, and most of the city has been destroyed, while thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed.
An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops holed up in Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant are still resisting Russian forces, which have been resorting to air strikes try to dislodge the holdouts. Some 1,000 civilians were also said to be taking shelter at the steelworks.
"Russian forces now occupying most of Ukraine's southeastern port city of Mariupol should ensure that civilians remaining in the city can leave in safety to Ukraine-controlled territory if they choose," HRW said in a statement on April 26.
The watchdog also said that special attention should be given to older people, people with disabilities, and those who are sick or wounded.
HRW also called on UN Secretary-General AntÃ³nio Guterres, who is visiting Moscow on April 26 and is also expected to travel to Kyiv, to urge senior Russian officials to take into account the plight of civilians in Mariupol, and warn them that they "can be held accountable for unlawful civilian deaths and other serious violations of international humanitarian law."
"After surviving two months of terror, hiding in basements as their city was turned to char and rubble, civilians still in Mariupol urgently need assistance and safe evacuation routes," HRW's Ida Sawyer said.
"Secretary-General Guterres and other international leaders should press top Russian officials to ensure safe passage to Ukraine-controlled territory."
The rights watchdog also warned Russian forces that they need to respect "the fundamental obligation under international humanitarian law to distinguish between civilians and combatants and to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians."
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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