2022 Assembly


OSCE Human Rights Head: “Those fleeing Ukraine conflict must be granted safe passage and international protection without delay”


Article source: OSCE press release

WARSAW, 7 March 2022 – The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is alarmed that more than 1.7 million people have already fled Ukraine as a consequence of the Russian Federation’s military attack, with many others still trying to find safety by crossing international borders or moving inside the country. An increasing number of civilians are falling victim to what appears to be the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in residential areas, which is prohibited by international humanitarian law.

“Safeguarding civilian lives during a military attack is an obligation that must be met unreservedly and without delay. It is vital that safe passage is guaranteed to all civilians in need of protection, in line with the commitments made by every OSCE country, as well as the norms of international law,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “Failing to ensure safe passage for those in need will continue to cause immense suffering to innocent people.”

Due to the present crisis, hundreds of thousands of civilians are unable to move to safety or seek international protection. Particularly those in vulnerable situations such as the elderly, children, or people with disabilities, require particular attention and assistance to reach safety.

ODIHR applauds the steps taken by many countries to open their borders to assist people fleeing Ukraine. Recognizing the immense challenge of dealing with a mass movement of this kind, more efforts and coordination are still needed. It is also crucial that such assistance is provided effectively and without discrimination to all those who need it, and to observe all obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.

All countries of the OSCE have recognized that the rights of people at risk of displacement or already affected by it “need to be effectively protected in all phases of the conflict cycle” (Vilnius 2011). OSCE countries have also committed to “promote dignified treatment of all individuals wanting to cross borders, in conformity with relevant national legal frameworks, international law, in particular human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law” (Ljubljana 2005).