Ukraine: ICRC calls on all sides to respect international humanitarian law


Geneva/Kiev (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross is concerned about the effects on civilians of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart has arrived in Ukraine to discuss with the parties concerned both the situation in general and the efforts to repatriate the bodies of those who died in the Malaysia Airlines plane crash on 17 July.

"Fighting in eastern Ukraine continues to take its toll on civilians, and we urge all sides to comply with international humanitarian law, otherwise known as the law of armed conflict," said Mr Stillhart. "These rules and principles apply to all parties to the non-international armed conflict in Ukraine, and impose restrictions on the means and methods of warfare that they may use." The ICRC has already shared its concerns bilaterally with the parties and reminded them that they must at all times distinguish between civilians on the one hand and persons directly participating in the fighting on the other.

The ICRC reiterates that, under international humanitarian law, attacks may be directed only against military objectives and not against civilians, nor against civilian objects such as homes, schools, medical facilities and vehicles, community shelters or places of worship. International humanitarian law also stipulates respect and protection for the civilian population and those not (or no longer) participating in hostilities, such as the sick, the wounded and those who have been detained, who must be treated with dignity at all times.

International humanitarian law also requires that all possible measures be taken to search for the dead, prevent the theft of their personal effects and hand them over to their relatives for burial. Following the terrible incident on 17 July, the ICRC contacted both the Ukrainian government and the representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic to offer its services in connection with the management of the bodies. "The ICRC is prepared to facilitate the movements and activities of the specialists until their work is complete and the remains of all victims have been recovered and identified," said Mr Stillhart.

The parties to the conflict must ensure the highest possible standards are met as regards search, recovery, handling and identification of the remains, and must keep the bereaved informed throughout the process.

Red Cross volunteers provided and continue to provide, first aid to anyone in need during the complex civil unrest in Ukraine. Unfortunately, one volunteer was seriously wounded by a gunshot while providing assistance.
Please find the videos which highlight the risks volunteers face when assisting those in need.
The two videos, 2 minutes and 10 minutes long, are now both available. The 2 minutes long video, titled “The importance of impartiality in Ukraine”, can be accessed through this link:
For the 10 minutes long video, titled “Respect: Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers take risks to save lives”, please go to:
The videos touch upon a very important issue - the safety and security of our volunteers and the risks they face when providing assistance to those who need it - in an easily-understandable and relatable way.