Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant needs to be immediately demilitarized: UN rights chief

Michelle Bachelet urges Russia to halt Ukraine war, says both sides must respect international rights, humanitarian laws.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant needs to be immediately demilitarized: UN rights chief

The UN human rights chief on Thursday called for the immediate demilitarization of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.

“Six months on, the fighting continues amid almost unthinkable risks posed to civilians and the environment as hostilities are conducted close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” Michelle Bachelet said at a news conference in Geneva.

“I call on the Russian president (Vladimir Putin) to halt armed attacks against Ukraine. The Zaporizhzhia plant needs to be immediately demilitarized.”

Fears of a nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which produces around 20% of Ukraine’s electricity and has been under Moscow’s control since March, have grown recently as Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling the facility.

Bachelet, who will step down as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights next week, said the past six months have been “unimaginably terrifying for the people of Ukraine.”

Some 6.8 million people have had to flee Ukraine and millions more are internally displaced, she said.

According to UN records, at least 5,587 civilians have been killed and 7,890 injured, including nearly 1,000 children, Bachelet said, emphasizing that the actual figures are likely to be much higher.

She stressed that both Russia and Ukraine “must respect, at all times and in all circumstances, international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”

Xinjiang report

Responding to questions, Bachelet denied allegations that she was not publishing a report about her visit to the Chinese region of Xinjiang due to pressure from Beijing.

Bachelet made a week-long trip to China in May – the first by any top UN human rights official since 2005.

She also visited the northwestern province of Xinjiang, home to ethnic Uyghurs, who are mostly Muslims.

China has been accused of ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs in the autonomous region, allegations that Beijing has dismissed as “lies.”

“We are working on the report. I had fully intended for it to be released before the end of my mandate, and we’re trying,” said Bachelet.

“Now we have received substantial input from the government that we will need to carefully review, as we do every time with any report with any country.”

Bachelet said she used her meetings with “high-level national officials and regional authorities in Xinjiang” to raise concerns “about human rights violations, including reports of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in institutions.”

She said the report takes an in-depth look into those and other serious human rights violations “concerning the Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.”