UN rights experts present evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

GENEVA – A team of experts mandated by the UN’s top human rights body to investigate human rights abuses in Ukraine said on Friday that its initial investigation had uncovered evidence of crimes of war in the country after the Russian invasion almost seven months ago.

Experts from the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, commissioned by the Human Rights Council earlier this year, have so far focused on four regions – Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.

Presenting their most comprehensive findings to date, they cited testimonies from former detainees about beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity in Russian detention centers, and expressed serious concerns about the executions that the he team endeavored to document in the four regions.

“Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it concluded that war crimes were committed in Ukraine,” Erik Mose, the commission’s chairman, told the Human Rights Council.

Commission member Pablo de Greiff told reporters that the team had “found two cases of ill-treatment of Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian soldiers. … We have seen a significantly higher number of incidents that amount to war crimes on the part of the Russian Federation.”

During a 10-day trip to Ukraine in June, the team visited Bucha, a town outside Kyiv where Ukrainian authorities found mass graves and bodies strewn on the streets after the removal Russian forces at the end of March.

“We were struck by the large number of executions in the areas we visited. The commission is currently investigating these deaths in 16 towns and settlements,” Mose said. He did not specify who or what part of the war carried out the killings.

The findings echo media and other reports of destruction, death and despair in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the February 24 invasion.

The commission’s work could ultimately contribute to the work of International Criminal Court prosecutors who may bring war crimes charges in Ukraine, though it remains unclear whether Russia or other alleged perpetrators will ever be brought to justice. .

Anton Korynevych, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s roving ambassador, joined envoys from a number of Western countries who spoke out against Moscow’s war following the commission’s presentation. The Russian delegation boycotted the council meeting.

Korynevych, speaking via video, called for the creation of a special tribunal that would have jurisdiction “over the crime of aggression against Ukraine” and would investigate senior Russian political and military officials who are responsible.

He said accountability was crucial for rights abuses and atrocities linked to Russia’s “aggression”. But Korynevych also pointed out how the impact of the war has spread across the world and “brought many countries to the brink of hunger, exacerbated extreme poverty, created the threat of an unprecedented nuclear catastrophe” and damaged the livelihoods of millions of people.

Commission investigators visited 27 towns and settlements, as well as graves and detention and torture centers; interviewed over 150 victims and witnesses; and met with advocacy groups and government officials, Mose said.

He said an unknown number of Russian soldiers had committed crimes of sexual or gender-based violence – with victims aged between 4 and 82.

The commission plans to gradually expand its investigation, with areas of interest including allegations of filter camps for those detained or deported, forcible transfer of people and allegations of accelerated adoption of children.

“Evidence of Russian atrocities grows more gruesome every day, most recently with the discovery of mass graves in Izium, where bodies show signs of torture,” said Michele Taylor, US Ambassador to the Human Rights Council. man, referring to a Kharkiv. regional town that Ukrainian forces have recaptured in recent weeks.

Taylor urged the commissioners to continue “to examine the growing evidence of Russia’s crackdowns, forced deportations and disappearances.”

She referred to “numerous sources” which indicated that Russian authorities had interrogated, detained and/or forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, and reported that children were being deported from Ukraine and placed in Russian orphanages for adoption.

A handful of Russian allies have come to the defense of Moscow.

Ina Vasileuskaya, Belarus’ deputy permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, said the goal of Russia’s invasion was to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.

“The biased discussions at the Human Rights Council blaming only Russia are a dead end,” she said.

Vasileuskaya said her country was not a party to the conflict, although Belarus was one of the places where Russian forces gathered before invading Ukraine.

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