This article contains references to sexual violence.
UN investigators said on Friday that war crimes had been committed in the Ukraine conflict, listing Russian bombings of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Erik Mose, head of the investigation team, told the Human Rights Council of the Ukraine. ‘UN.
The categorical nature of the statement was unusual.
UN investigators typically present their findings on international crimes in the conditional, referring to the eventual confirmation of war crimes and similar violations in court.
The council was set up by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) – the highest level of investigation possible – in May to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
The team of three independent experts was giving its first oral update to the council after launching initial investigations into Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, and said it would expand the investigation in the future.
Speaking a day before the seventh anniversary of Russia’s invasion of his neighbour, Mr Mose highlighted “the Russian Federation’s use of explosive weapons with a wide area of effect in populated areas”, which he said was “a source of immense harm and suffering to civilians.”
Torture, sexual violence
He pointed out that a number of attacks the team had investigated “were carried out without distinction between civilians and combatants”, including attacks with cluster munitions in populated areas.
The team, he said, had been particularly “struck by the large number of executions in the areas we visited” and the frequent “visible signs of executions on the bodies, such as hands tied behind back, bullet wounds to the head and slit throats.”
Mr Mose said the commission is currently investigating these deaths in 16 towns and settlements and has received credible allegations about many more cases that it will seek to document.
Moved to Russia
Investigators had also received “consistent accounts of ill-treatment and torture, which were perpetrated during unlawful detention”.
Some of the victims had told investigators that they had been 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 these detention centers,” Mose said.
The head of the commission said investigators also “dealt with two incidents of mistreatment of Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces”, adding that “although few such cases continue to be of our attention”.
The team also documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence, Mose said, establishing in some cases that Russian soldiers were the perpetrators.
“There are examples of cases where relatives have been forced to witness crimes,” he said.
“In the cases we investigated, the ages of victims of sexual and gender-based violence ranged from four to 82 years old.”
The commission documented a wide range of crimes against children, he said, including children who were “raped, tortured and unlawfully confined”.
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