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BRIEFING NOTES: (1) Ukraine (2) Libya (3) China/Hong Kong SAR

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani 

Location: Geneva 

Date: 11 October 2022 

Subject: (1) Ukraine; (2) Libya; (3) China/Hong Kong SAR 

1)         Ukraine 

The missile attacks by Russian armed forces yesterday which struck cities across Ukraine left at least 12 civilians dead and more than 100 injured in Kyiv, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, and in Kyiv and Sumy regions. The location and timing of the strikes – when people were commuting to work and taking children to school – is particularly shocking. 

We are gravely concerned that some of the attacks appear to have targeted critical civilian infrastructure. Many civilian objects, including dozens of residential buildings and vital civilian infrastructure – including at least 12 energy facilities – were damaged or destroyed in eight regions, indicating that these strikes may have violated the principles on the conduct of hostilities under international humanitarian law. Damage to key power stations and lines ahead of the upcoming winter raises further concerns for the protection of civilians and in particular the impact on vulnerable populations. 

Attacks targeting civilians and objects indispensable to the survival of civilians are prohibited under international humanitarian law. 

We urge the Russian Federation to refrain from further escalation, and to take all feasible measures to prevent civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure. 

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Our Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine will continue corroborating information on civilian casualties resulting from these attacks, as well as documenting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law throughout the country.

 2)         Libya 

Widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses against migrants in Libya are compounded by the lack of pathways to protection within and outside the country – meaning migrants are often compelled to accept ‘assisted return’ to their home countries in conditions that may not meet international human rights laws and standards, according to a UN human rights report released today. 

“Migrants are frequently compelled to accept assisted return to escape abusive detention conditions, threats of torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, extortion, and other human rights violations and abuses,” the report states. “Collectively, these conditions have created a coercive environment that is often inconsistent with free choice.” 

‘Assisted returns’ are, in principle, voluntary. However, the report finds that in reality, many migrants in Libya are unable to make a truly voluntary decision to return in accordance with international human rights law and standards, including the principle of free, prior and informed consent. Many of them find they have no choice but to return to the same circumstances that made them leave their countries in the first place, the report states. 

(3)       China/Hong Kong SAR 

We are alarmed by the sentencing on Saturday of another five people – four of them minors – under the National Security Law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (Hong Kong SAR).

The UN Human Rights Office and a number of UN human rights mechanisms have repeatedly expressed concerns over the negative impact of the National Security Law on fundamental rights and freedoms in the Hong Kong SAR. We remind the Hong Kong SAR authorities of their obligations under international human rights law, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child in Article 37 states that “the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”. 

The UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the Covenant, in July this year called on the Government to “take concrete steps to repeal the current National Security Law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying the Law”. We regret the continued application of the National Security Law, including against children, in spite of the clear recommendations of the Human Rights Committee. 

We urge the authorities to bring the Hong Kong SAR’s legislation and practice fully into compliance with its international human rights obligations.

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