GENEVA (AP) – A team of experts commissioned by the top UN human rights body to investigate rights violations in Ukraine said on Friday that its initial investigation had uncovered evidence of war crimes in the country after Russia’s invasion nearly seven months ago.
Experts from the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, mandated by the Human Rights Council earlier this year, have so far focused on four regions – Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
Presenting their most extensive findings to date, they cited testimonies from former inmates of beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity in Russian detention centers and expressed serious concerns about executions in the four regions.
“We were impressed by the large number of executions in the areas we visited. The commission is investigating these deaths in 16 cities and settlements,” Erik Mose, chairman of the commission, told the council. He did not specify who or which side of the war allegedly committed the killings.
Mose said his team has received and is documenting “credible allegations about many other executions.” During a 10-day trip to Ukraine in June, the team visited Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, where Ukrainian authorities found mass graves and bodies littering the streets after the withdrawal of Russian forces in late March.
The findings echo reports from news outlets and others about the destruction, death and despair in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on Feb.
The commission’s work could ultimately contribute to the work of prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, who can prosecute war crimes in Ukraine, although it remains to be seen whether Russia or other alleged perpetrators will face justice.
Anton Korynevych, Ambassador General of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, joined envoys from several Western countries who spoke out against Moscow’s war after the commission’s presentation. The Russian delegation boycotted the council meeting.
Korynevych, speaking via video, called for the creation of a special court that would have jurisdiction “over the crime of aggression against Ukraine” and investigate top Russian political and military leaders allegedly responsible.
He said accountability is crucial for rights violations and atrocities linked to Russia’s “aggression”, but also highlighted how the effects of the war “spread across the world and “brought numerous countries to the brink of famine, exacerbated extreme poverty, created the threat of a never-before-seen nuclear catastrophe” and has crippled the livelihoods of millions around the world.
Investigators from the Ukraine Commission of Inquiry visited 27 cities and settlements, as well as tombs and detention and torture centers; interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses; and met with advocacy groups and government officials, Mose said.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it was concluded that war crimes were committed in Ukraine,” he said.
He said the team had examined two incidents of mistreatment of Russian soldiers by Ukrainian forces.
Mose said an unspecified 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 filtering camps for detained or deported persons, forced transfer of persons and allegations of accelerated adoption of children.
“Evidence of Russia’s atrocities grows more horrific by the 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, referring to to a city in the Kharkiv region that Ukrainian forces have recaptured in recent weeks.
Taylor urged the commissioners to continue to “examine the mounting evidence of Russia’s filtering operations, forced deportations and disappearances”.
She referred to “numerous sources” that indicated that Russian authorities interrogated, detained and/or forcibly deported between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens, and reports 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 those responsible for these crimes to account.”
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Source : ksltv.com