The siege of Mariupol caused an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe in 21st century Europe. It will certainly once again raise the question of the inadmissibility of the siege of settlements that are highly likely to lead to famine, indiscriminate attacks, unjustified destruction of cities, and excessive suffering of people protected by international humanitarian law.

At the same time, international humanitarian law establishes rules that limit the impact of war on persons who, due to circumstances, cannot strengthen the military capabilities of the warring parties. The first category of such persons to whom an international convention appeared more than a century and a half ago were the wounded and sick in the active armies. Subsequently, civilians were added to this category of protected persons.

In the public sphere, the most visible problem of Mariupol is the suffering of the civilian population from constant shelling and famine. Russia regularly denies the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the opening of humanitarian corridors to safely evacuate people from the destroyed city. Instead, the Russian army is carrying out illegal deportations of Ukrainian citizens to the territory of the Russian Federation, which is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

But in addition, the current problem of the wounded and sick in the city, both among combatants and civilians, has reached a catastrophic scale.

Like the civilian population, the wounded and sick, even if they were members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, any state armed units fighting for Ukraine must be protected under international humanitarian law. For such protection, the Fourth Geneva Convention proposes to create neutralized zones for the accommodation of the wounded (Article 15 of the Convention). International humanitarian law also encourages the parties to armed conflict to conclude agreements on evacuating the wounded and sick (without division into civilian or military) from besieged cities. A neutral humanitarian organization such as the International Committee of the Red Cross should assist in implementing such initiatives.

Mariupol has become a test of the capacity and effectiveness of international organizations that have failed to do anything for the sick and wounded, as well as for the civilian population that remains in Mariupol.

By denying Ukraine long-range weapons and other weapons needed to liberate the temporarily occupied territories and protect the civilian population, Western countries speak about the importance of diplomatic efforts to solve this situation. There is then no explanation as to why, a month later, their “diplomatic efforts” have so far yielded no results.

People are dying. The wounded and sick in Mariupol can no longer wait.

Euromaidan SOS calls on the countries of the world, international organizations, and the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure the removal of the wounded and sick from Mariupol. It will, at least to a small extent, allow us to counteract the humanitarian catastrophe in the full life of the city, which is now in ruins.

Euromaidan SOS calls on the Ukrainian authorities to raise this issue once again at the international level in order to encourage Russia to comply with international humanitarian law, as well as to take all appropriate measures to save the sick, wounded, and the civilian population of Mariupol.

Euromaidan SOS calls on international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freedom House, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), CIVICUS, the Human Rights House Foundation, and others, to strengthen this call with public appeals.

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