PAX firmly condemns the invasion and calls for an immediate return of all Russian troops to outside the Ukrainian sovereign territory. This is an unwarranted, ungrounded invasion, in which Russia is responsible for harm and damages. We worry about the fate of all Ukrainian citizens irrespective of their ethnic, religious, political or other affiliations, all the more so because we are aware of the repeated breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law at the hands of Russian forces and Russian backed forces, in Ukraine and in other countries such as Syria.
Flagrant violation of international law
PAX considers the invasion of Ukraine a flagrant violation of international law, which should be condemned by the international community and the EU. PAX emphasizes the need for diplomacy and a political strategy as a means of stopping war and calls upon swift and strong sanctions against Russia for their disrespect of international law.
Impact of explosive weapons
The escalation of armed violence in Ukraine demonstrates the importance of protecting civilians against the impact from explosive weapons in populated areas. Already on Tuesday the 22nd of February, the Luhansk power station in Schastia was reportedly targeted with GRAD rockets. The ICRC reported severe water shortages in the Donetsk area after active hostilities put several water stations and pipelines out of order. On 23 and 24 February reports on explosions near major Ukrainian cities continued to come in and we are worried that this will continue.
Previously PAX reported on the direct impact from explosive weapons in towns and cities on civilians in Ukraine as well as the indirect and reverberating effects this practice has on civilians, for example through the impact on healthcare. We furthermore highlighted the impact on the environment through damage cause in the highly industrialized areas in Eastern Ukraine.
When explosive weapons with wide area effects are used in towns and cities, they put civilians at great risk of being killed and injured. Research indicates that 9 out of 10 casualties worldwide from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians. Explosive weapons also have grave indirect and reverberating effects when used in towns and cities through the impact on infrastructure such as houses, water and electricity networks, hospitals, schools. Such impact creates an interlinked pattern of harm. Hospitals cannot function without electricity or water, education suffers from damage to schools and so on. Antipersonnel landmines are indiscriminate by nature, and will impact societies long after the conflict has ended. Concerns about reports of both victim activated landmines (prohibited by the Mine Ban Treaty) as command activated landmines (not prohibited) have been expressed in the past. Being banned internationally for the civilian harm these weapons cause cluster munitions were also reportedly used in the conflict in Ukraine before.
In all these cases civilians will bear the brunt.
PAX calls upon all parties to the conflict to protect civilians against the impact from the use of (controversial) weapons, and specifically upon:
- all parties to avoid the use of explosive weapons in towns and cities;
- all parties to consider the direct, indirect and foreseeable reverberating impact of their military operations on civilians, including the (long-term) impact on the environment;
- all parties not to use anti-personnel landmines, and Russia to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty without delay;
- all parties to not use cluster munitions, and accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions without delay.
Need for monitoring
Furthermore, we call on the international community to impartially monitor civilian harm in this situation, as a basis for decision making on direct assistance, long term support, and for future legal actions to be taken against all those individuals who violate international humanitarian law and human rights.
PAX will continue to monitor the armed violence in Ukraine and its effects on the civilian population. PAX moreover will continue to support its partners in Ukraine.