A large-scale influx of weapons to conflict-affected zones raises many concerns, including the potential for diversion, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, warned the Security Council on Thursday.
“These concerns should be taken with due regard, and the international community does have some instruments, such as UN Register of Conventional Arms, to enhance transparency in arms transfer,” she highlighted.
“I encourage States to make use of those mechanisms”.
Ms Nakamitsu underscored that it is a matter of public record that since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, Ukraine has received weapon systems and ammunition from several States for their defense forces.
“Information about transfers of such material has been widely publicized by the governments involved,” she said, adding that the transfers of arms have included heavy conventional weapons such as battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems and uncrewed combat aerial vehicles, as well as small arms and light weapons.
The senior UN official further said that there have also been widespread and independently verified reports of the transfer of major conventional weapon systems to local armed groups in Ukraine, including artillery rocket systems.
An unexploded ordnances, in Bucha, Ukraine.
Beyond the supply
Considering the devastating impact on civilians and civilian infrastructure caused by heavy armament in Ukraine, Ms. Nakamitsu emphasized that beyond the matter of supply, the Security Council should focus on how these weapons are being used.
“The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 13,917 verified civilian casualties since 24 February. The actual numbers are believed to be significantly higher,” she said.
Most of the civilian casualties recorded have been caused by explosive weapons with wide area effects, including attacks by heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and aircraft.
The UN disarmament chief echoed Secretary-General António Guterres on the severe humanitarian impact of explosive weapons in populated areas.
“Under international humanitarian law, combatants must not direct attacks against civilians or civilian infrastructure and take all feasible precautions in the conduct of military operations to avoid, or at least to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects,” she reminded the 15 ambassadors.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs (file).
Time to end the suffering
Finally, Ms. Nakamitsu reiterated her call to end the conflict and the suffering caused by heavy conventional weapons.
“We have witnessed tremendous devastation – with thousands of civilians killed and injured, most as a result of the use of heavy conventional weapons,” she said
“The time to end this suffering is now. Let us resolve to keep working for peace in line with international law and the United Nations Charter,” concluded the UN disarmament chief.