World, Russia-Ukraine War

Violations of cultural rights in Russia-Ukraine war to impede post-war healing, warns UN expert

UN special rapporteur says suffering in Ukraine seems to be unstoppable

Peter Kenny   | 25.05.2022
Violations of cultural rights in Russia-Ukraine war to impede post-war healing, warns UN expert

GENEVA 

The questioning of the Ukrainian identity and history as a justification for the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war violates Ukrainians' right to self-determination and it will have devastating effects in the post-war era, a UN expert said Wednesday.

"As in other conflicts, we currently witness the unfolding of suffering in Ukraine that does not seem to end, and we cannot stop," Alexandra Xanthaki, the special rapporteur on cultural rights, said in a statement.

"The questioning and denial of the Ukrainian identity and history as a justification for war violates the Ukrainians' right to self-determination and cultural rights," she said.

The London-based law professor referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin's arguments that deny Ukraine's right to statehood.


Self-identification

Xanthaki said, "self-identification is the paramount expression of these rights, and all discussions, by states and in social media, should respect this."

The considerable loss of cultural heritage and destruction of cultural artifacts was worrying for the identity of both Ukrainians and minorities within Ukraine, she added.

The UN rapporteur said this would "impact the establishment of a peaceful multicultural society after the end of the war."

"Beyond recalling that the rules of international humanitarian and human rights law should be scrupulously applied by all parties to the conflict, we must ensure that culture helps us maintain our dignity and is not used as a means to pursue and fuel the war," she said.

Xanthaki expressed her concern over the damage to city centers, cultural sites, monuments, and museums housing important collections.

"These are all part of the identity of people in Ukraine; their loss will have a lasting effect," the expert said.

She also shared UNESCO's concern that the cultural life in its entirety is at risk of disappearing in the country.

"We often do not measure how devastating violations of cultural rights can be for peace," she said.

The special rapporteur also expressed her regret about the indiscriminate exclusion of Russian artists from cultural events.

"I am saddened by the numerous restrictions affecting Russian artists in retaliation for the actions of the Russian Government, as well as by the deprogramming of sometimes centuries-old works of art from Russian writers or composers," Xanthaki said.

She referred to reports of Russian musicians being impeded from performing or participating in competitions, and Russian artists requested to take sides publicly.

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