UN inquiry: Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine

War crimes have been committed in Ukraine, Erik Møse, head of the Independent International Commission on Ukraine, told the UN Human Rights Council on September 23.

Møse was giving a scheduled update on the investigations into events in late February and March 2022 in the areas of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.

He said that the commission had visited 27 towns and settlements and has interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.

“We have inspected sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture, as well as weapon remnants, and consulted a large number of documents and reports,” Møse said.

The commission met government authorities, international organisations, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders.

Giving what Møse called a “sample” of the findings and observations thus far, he said that regarding the conduct of hostilities, the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas is a source of immense harm and suffering for civilians.

“We observed first-hand the damage that explosive weapons have caused to residential buildings and infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. In Kharkiv city, explosive weapons devastated entire areas of the city.

“We note that according to the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, most of the recorded deaths were caused by the use of such weapons. This devastation is one of the factors explaining why a third of the Ukrainian population has been forced to flee,” Møse said.

He said that a number of the attacks the commission had investigated had been carried out without distinguishing between civilians and combatants. This included some attacks with cluster munitions or multi-launch rocket systems and airstrikes in populated areas.

“As for violations against personal integrity, we were struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited.:

The commission is currently investigating such deaths in 16 towns and settlements.

We have received credible allegations regarding many more cases of executions, which we are documenting further,” he said.

Common elements of such crimes include the prior detention of the victims as well as visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats.

“Witnesses provided us with consistent accounts of ill-treatment and torture, which were carried out during unlawful confinement,” Møse said.

“Some of the victims reported that after initial detention by Russian forces in Ukraine, they were transferred to the Russian Federation and held for weeks in prisons.”

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

After being reportedly transferred into detention in the Russian Federation, some victims had disappeared, he said.

“As regard these four areas, we have processed two incidents of ill-treatment against Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces. While few in numbers, such cases continue to be the subject of our attention.”

The commission has found that some Russian soldiers had committed crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.

These acts amounted to different types of violations of rights, including sexual violence, torture, and cruel and inhuman treatment, Møse said.

There are examples of cases where relatives were forced to witness the crimes.

“In the cases we have investigated, the age of victims of sexual and gendered-based violence ranged from four to 82 years.”

The commission has documented cases in which children have been raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined.

Children have also been killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks with explosive weapons.

The exposure to repeated explosions, crimes, forced displacement and separation from family members deeply affected their well-being and mental health, Møse said.

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