Ukrainian authorities discuss mass cemetery in Izyum
War crimes, including rape and torture of children, have been committed in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine since the beginning of this year Vladimir Putin‘s war, the head of a United Nations-mandated investigative agency said on Friday. Ukraine and his western allies accuse Russian soldiers of a litany of rights violations since the February 24 invasion, though Moscow dismisses the charges as a smear campaign.
Erik Mose, head of the Commission of Inquiry for Ukraine, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: “On the basis of the evidence collected by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.”
He did not specify who was to blame, but the commission has focused on areas previously occupied by Russian forces, including Kiev, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
Investigators from the Commission, set up by the UNHRC in March, visited 27 sites and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.
Vladimir Putin’s Russian soldiers raped and tortured children, report says
Forensic technicians take a break from digging graves in Izium
They discovered evidence of numerous executions, including bodies with hands tied, throats slashed and gunshot wounds to the head, Mose said.
He said researchers had identified victims of sexual assault between the ages of four and 82. Although some Russian soldiers had used sexual assault as a strategy, the commission “didn’t identify an overall pattern to that effect,” Mose added.
Russia deliberately denies attacking civilians during what it has repeatedly called a “special military operation.”
Erik Mose heads the Ukraine inquiry
Moscow was called to respond to the allegations at the council meeting, but the seat remained empty. There was no immediate official response from the Kremlin.
The commission will then turn its attention to allegations of “filtration” camps in Russian-occupied territories for the processing of Ukrainian prisoners, as well as claims of forcible transfer of people and adoption of Ukrainian children in Russia.
Ukraine and some other countries urged the commission to also investigate a mass cemetery near Izium, in eastern Ukraine, where hundreds of bodies have been found.
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If no response is given, the Russian violations will drag us into a dark world of impunity and indulgence
Speaking via video link, Ukraine’s envoy Anton Korynevych told the council: “If no response is given, the Russian violations will drag us into a dark world of impunity and indulgence.”
At times, investigations launched by the council can be used in national and international courts, such as in the case of a former Syrian intelligence officer jailed in Germany in January for state-sponsored torture.
Mose said he was in contact with the International Criminal Court about the commission’s findings.
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The body, led by British lawyer and prosecutor Karim Khan, will present a full report to the council at the end of its mandate in March 2023, including recommendations on how to hold perpetrators to account.
A Human Rights Watch report published in April also accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine.
Cases that emerged included a case of repeated rape; two summary executions, one of six men, the other of a man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022.
Hugh Williamson, director of Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, said: “The cases we have documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians.
“Rape, murder and other acts of violence against people in custody by the Russian armed forces should be investigated as war crimes.”
A woman said a Russian soldier had repeatedly raped her at a school in the Kharkiv region, where she and her family had taken shelter on March 13.
Volodymyr Zelensky visited Izium last week
He beat her and cut her face, neck and hair with a knife, she added.
The next day, the woman fled to Kharkov, where she could receive medical treatment and other services.
Human Rights Watch looked at two photos the woman shared with Human Rights Watch that show her facial injuries.