GENEVA — A team of experts mandated by the UN’s top human rights body to investigate human rights abuses in Ukraine said on Friday its initial investigation had uncovered evidence of war crimes in Ukraine. 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 executions in four regions.
“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,” Erik Mose, the commission’s chairman, told the council. He did not specify who or what part of the war carried out the killings.
Mose said his team had received and were documenting “credible allegations regarding numerous other instances of executions.” 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.
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, although it remains unclear whether Russia or other alleged perpetrators will ever 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 also highlighted how the effects of the war have “reverberated around the world and” put many countries on the brink of hunger, exacerbated extreme poverty, created the threat of an unprecedented nuclear disaster” and damaged the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.
Investigators from the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine 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.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it concluded that war crimes were committed in Ukraine,” he said.
He said the team looked at two cases of mistreatment of Russian soldiers by Ukrainian forces.
Mose 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 town in the Kharkiv region that Ukrainian forces have taken over 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.
German Ambassador Katharina Stasch added: “Make no mistake, we will hold responsible for these crimes those who are responsible for these crimes.” ———
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine