The United nations She said her investigators have concluded that Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine, including the bombing of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture, and horrific sexual violence.
The United Nations has made investigating human rights violations in the war a priority, and in May its top human rights body commissioned a team of experts to start work in the country.
Since then, UN investigators have risked their lives to gather evidence of crimes committed against civilians, including in areas still threatened by enemy forces or strewn with mines.
The team of three independent experts on Friday gave the first oral update to the UN Human Rights Council, after it launched preliminary investigations in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, adding that it will expand its investigations.
Speaking a day before the seven-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of its neighbour, Eric Moss, head of the investigation team, told the council that based on the evidence gathered by the investigative committee on the UkraineIt concluded that war crimes had been committed in Ukraine.
The team of investigators visited 27 towns and settlements, in addition to cemeteries, detention and torture centers; interviews with over 150 victims and witnesses; He met with advocacy groups and government officials.
Moss said the team was in particular “shocked by the large number of executions in the areas we visited,” and the “frequent visual signs of executions on corpses, such as hands tied behind the back, gunshot wounds to the head, and a slit throat.” “.
He added that it is investigating such deaths in 16 towns and settlements, and has received credible allegations about many other cases that it will seek to document. Investigators also received “consistent accounts of ill-treatment and torture, which occurred during unlawful confinement,” the council said.
In the settlements of Bucha, Hostomel and Borodianka, which were occupied by Russian forces for about a month, Ukrainian investigators found dozens of mass graves where the bodies of civilians who had been tortured and killed were buried.
Since the Russians withdrew from the area, a group of young volunteers has worked Tirelessly exhuming corpses and sent to forensic doctors who collected evidence of crimes committed by Russian forces.
Some of the victims told investigators they had been transferred to Russia and held for weeks in prisons. Others have “disappeared” after these transfers. “Interviewers described beatings, electric shocks, and forced nudity, as well as other types of abuse in these detention facilities,” Moss said.
Moss said the team “also dealt with two incidents of abuse against soldiers of the Russian Federation by Ukrainian forces,” adding that “despite the small number of cases, such cases are still of interest to us.”
He said investigators had also documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence, and in some cases had proven 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 4 to 82 years.”
Moussa added that the committee had documented a wide range of crimes against children, including children who had been “raped, tortured and unlawfully imprisoned.”
In April, coroners told The Guardian they had found evidence of this Some women were raped before they were killed by Russian forces. “We already have a few cases that indicate these women were raped before they were shot,” Vladislav Perovsky, a Ukrainian forensic pathologist who has performed dozens of autopsies on people from Bucha, Irpin and Borodianka, told The Guardian.
At least two men on the list of indicted Russian war criminals released by Ukrainian prosecutors are accused of sexual assault and rape.
In his report to the council, Moss noted “the Russian Federation’s use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas”, which he said were “a source of great harm and suffering to civilians.”
The United Nations highlighted that a number of the attacks the team investigated were “carried out without distinction between civilians and combatants,” including cluster munition attacks, which are prohibited by most countries in the world under a 2008 treaty.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Moscow, Russian forces have been accused of using a number of illegal weapons that killed hundreds of civilians in the Ukrainian Kyiv region, including extremely powerful unguided bombs in populated areas, which destroyed at least eight civilian buildings. .
According to the evidence, cluster munitions were unleashed in areas where there were no military personnel and no military infrastructure.
The commission’s work could ultimately contribute to the work of ICC prosecutors who can bring charges over war crimes in Ukraine, although it remains uncertain whether Russia or the other alleged perpetrators will face justice.
In a separate development, Ukrainian officials said on Friday that they had exhumed some 436 bodies from a cemetery in the recently recovered city of Izyum, and that at least 30 of them showed signs of torture.
“This is of course a new incident but we certainly intend to look at the Izium event as well,” Moss said.