UN Investigators: “War Crimes” Committed in Ukraine

According to UN investigators, the fighting in Ukraine has resulted in war crimes, including Russian airstrikes of civilian areas, countless executions, torture, and horrifying sexual assault.

Erik Mose, the leader of the investigating team, informed the UN Human Rights Council that “based on the information gathered by the Commission, it has decided that war crimes have been perpetrated in Ukraine.”

The comment was unusual since it was categorical.

UN investigators frequently use qualifiers when describing their conclusions about international crimes and submit the ultimate determination of war crimes and other violations to legal authorities.

The council was established by the Commission of Inquiry (COI), the highest level of inquiry, in May to look into crimes committed during Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.

After launching initial investigations focusing on the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy, the team of three independent specialists was giving the council its first oral update and announcing that it will expand the investigation moving forward.

Speaking a day before the seven-month mark since Russia invaded its neighbor, Mose cited the “usage of explosive weapons with wide area impacts in populated regions by the Russian Federation,” which he claimed was “a source of tremendous injury and suffering for civilians.”

Torture, sexual violence

He highlighted that a number of attacks the team had investigated “had been carried out without distinguishing between civilians and combatants,” including attacks with cluster munitions in populated areas.

The team, he said, had been especially “struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited,” and the frequent “visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats.”

Mose said the commission was currently investigating such deaths in 16 towns and settlements, and had received credible allegations regarding many more cases which it would seek to document.

The investigators had also received “consistent accounts of ill-treatment and torture, which were carried out during unlawful confinement.”

Some of the victims had told the investigators they were transferred to Russia and held for weeks in prisons. Others had “disappeared” following such transfers.

“Interlocutors described beatings, electric shocks, and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in such detention facilities,” Mose said.

The commission chief said the investigators had also “processed two incidents of ill-treatment against Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces”, adding that “while few in numbers, such cases continue to be the subject of our attention.”

The team had also documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence, Mose said, in some cases establishing that Russian soldiers were the perpetrators.

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