I would like to thank Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris for her intervention. We fully support the work of the Office of the High Commissioner and look forward to working together during our time on the Council. The information provided by the Office of the High Commissioner is essential to the work of this Council. I have also taken note of the remarks of Metropolitan Anthony, representative of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Last week, Switzerland, like so many others around this table, called on Russia for an immediate cessation of hostilities. Less than twenty-four hours later, a new wave of Russian attacks hit Ukraine. Residential areas and energy infrastructure were affected. In Dnipro, a residential building was largely destroyed. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims, with the injured and with those who are involved in the rescue efforts day and night. We are also dismayed by the shelling of the city of Kherson, which damaged, among other things, the building of the Ukrainian Red Cross. This is not only an attack on a humanitarian actor but also on the rights of people affected by conflict to receive assistance and protection.
Switzerland condemns these attacks. We recall that under international humanitarian law, the distinction between military targets and civilians as well as civilian objects is an obligation. Intentionally directing attacks against civilians or civilian objects constitutes a war crime. The principles of proportionality and precaution must also be respected.
Switzerland also remains concerned about the serious human rights violations and abuses committed in Ukraine during this war. According to the statement made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the 7th of December, these include summary executions, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, as well as conflict-related sexual violence.
With regard to freedom of religion and belief, Switzerland upholds the principle that freedom of religion protects the individual and not religions or religious communities. We remind all States Parties of their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We oppose the spread and dissemination of hate speech and any other forms and manifestations of religions-based defamation and discrimination. We call on religious institutions and leaders to use their influence and responsibility for de-escalation, humanity and the promotion of peace.
This Council must assume its responsibility for international peace and security and devote its full attention to achieving a just peace in accordance with international law. Russia's actions seriously violate that international law, including the prohibition on the use of force under international law, and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. This can never be justified!
We call on Russia, once again, to de-escalate the situation and withdraw its troops without delay.