GENEVA, Switzerland – The UN commission of inquiry into Ukraine said Friday that “war crimes” had been committed in the country since the Russian invasion last February, confirming suspicions that existed.
“Based on the evidence collected by the Commission, it was concluded that war crimes were committed in Ukraine,” said the president of that body, Erik Mose, during a first oral presentation before the UN Human Rights Council in which he listed Russian bombing of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and ill-treatment, and sexual violence.
These direct accusations, far from the usual UN caution, were praised by many diplomats, while Russia left its bench empty.
In a video intervention, the representative of Ukraine, Anton Korinevich, described the presentation of the investigators as an “important milestone” towards the establishment of responsibilities before justice, and recalled that his country calls for the creation of a special court to judge crimes Russians in Ukraine.
“His presentation leads to reflection on the scope and breadth of these atrocities and their lasting impact on the lives of tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, including children,” said British Ambassador Simon Manley.
The commission was launched last March by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate complaints about the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine.
The council then passed a new resolution in May calling on the commission to specifically investigate gross human rights violations committed by Russian troops in the kyiv, Chernigov, Kharkiv and Sumy regions.
During its investigations in those four regions, the commission visited 27 cities and towns and questioned more than 150 victims and witnesses, explained Erik Mose.
“We were shocked by the large number of executions in the regions we visited. The Commission is currently investigating such deaths in 16 cities and locations. We have received credible allegations concerning more numerous cases of executions, which we are documenting,” he said.
Common characteristics of the bodies found are visible signs of executions, such as hands tied behind their backs, bullet wounds to the head or cuts to the neck.
Mose also said investigations had “shown a considerable number of war crimes” committed by the Russians, while only two cases of mistreatment of Russian soldiers by Ukrainian forces had been found so far.
“There is a considerable difference between war crimes committed on a large scale on the one hand and two cases of mistreatment on the other,” another investigator, Pablo de Greiff, added to AFP questions.
torture and rape
Mose also denounced the use by Russia of “explosive weapons with a long radius of impact” on civilian areas.
In addition, the witnesses provided consistent testimonies of mistreatment and torture, which were perpetrated during their illegal detention.
Some of the victims indicated that, after a first arrest by Russian forces in Ukraine, they were transferred to Russia and detained for weeks in prisons.
“Interlocutors described beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in those places of detention,” Mose stressed, noting that some victims transferred to Russia would have disappeared.
The UN investigators also received information on cases of sexual violence. In some cases, relatives or friends were forced to witness these crimes.
The age of the victims of sexual violence ranged from four to 82 years.