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  • Writer's pictureOvith Thiyagalingam

Supporting Ukraine: Students Say No to Crimes Against Humanity

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

This article discusses themes of international war crimes and violence and may be triggering for some readers.

"The invasion has triggered a huge human rights, humanitarian, & displacement crisis that has the makings of the worst such catastrophe in recent European history. Russia is breaching the sovereignty of Ukraine & challenging the global security architecture.”

- Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International

Investigating International Human Rights Violations

On February 24, 2022, children in Ukraine awoke to the grave reality of a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine by the Kremlin and Russian forces. Over the subsequent months, credible reports have continued to verify the Kremlin’s violation of international humanitarian law and the laws of war, outlined by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, and other international law legislature.

The invasion by Russian forces has led to civilian deaths and injuries and extensive damage to civilian buildings, including hospitals, schools, and homes. Human Rights Watch reports that over 1 million Ukrainians had fled their homes by just the first week of hostilities, seeking safety across borders in other countries including Canada.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, reported in May that her team at the U.N. has compiled evidence of hundreds of killings of Ukrainian civilians by Russian soldiers and that the killings often appeared to be intentional. An investigative team sanctioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) published a report providing evidence of a deliberate attack by Russian forces, offering no advanced warning, on a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 9. A Russian strike on a drama theatre in Mariupol also killed 300 people, despite both sides of the theatre on the outside clearly marked with the word “children.”

The U.N. further estimates that thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the conflict, with over 1,000 civilian bodies recovered in just the Kyiv region. Civilians have reportedly been killed while seeking food or water, and unarmed local Ukrainian men had been tortured before being executed.

Bachelet’s office confirms dozens of sexual violence cases across Ukraine, with most victims cited to be women and girls, but more reports of men and boys experiencing rape and abuse by Russian soldiers are also emerging.

The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also estimates that over 100 children were killed in the fighting in Ukraine between April and May, with the actual number expected to be much higher.

According to the Human Rights Watch, international humanitarian law upholds that the laws of war prohibit deliberate killing, rape, and other sexual violence, torture, and inhumane treatment of captured civilians. Anyone who orders or deliberately commits such acts, or aids and supports them, has committed war crimes. As such, Russia has violated its obligations to protect international human rights through its aggressive occupation of Ukraine and evidenced acts of violence against the Ukrainian people.

The Canadian government has provided Ukraine with financial assistance, humanitarian aid, and housing for Ukrainian refugees in Canada. Canadians are donating to trusted organizations and initiatives that support Ukrainians. What can students do?

Students for Ukraine

1) Write to MPs and other elected representatives.

-Express the importance of continued strong government support for Ukraine.

2) Join peaceful, local demonstrations in your city to show solidarity with Ukrainians.

3) Stay informed and inform others.

-Follow Ukraine-based journalists and credible news outlets.

-Post and share social media content and events from reputable channels supporting


4) Get involved with a student club or initiative at your school that is supporting Ukraine.

5) Donate to a trusted organization helping Ukrainians.

Students have a key role to play in supporting international human rights.

Subscribe to the SFHRA newsletter to hear future updates on global human rights issues!


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