This article contains references to sexual violence.
UN investigators said on Friday that war crimes were committed in the conflict in Ukraine, listing Russian bombing of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it came to the conclusion that war crimes were committed in Ukraine,” Erik Mose, the head of the investigation team, told the UN Human Rights Council.
The categorical nature of the statement was unusual.
UN investigators typically express their findings on international crimes in conditional language, referring to the final confirmation of war crimes and court-like violations.
The council was set up by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) – the highest level of investigation possible – in May to investigate crimes in the Russian war in Ukraine.
The team of three independent experts presented its first oral update to the council after initiating initial investigations into the areas of the Kiev, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions and said it would expand the investigation in the future.
Speaking a day before the seventh month anniversary of his neighbor’s Russian invasion, Mose stressed “the Russian Federation’s use of large-area explosive weapons in populated areas,” which he claimed was “a source of immense damages and suffering for civilians “.
Torture, sexual violence
He pointed out that a series of attacks the team had investigated “had been carried out without distinguishing between civilians and combatants,” including cluster munitions attacks in populated areas.
The team, she said, was particularly “affected 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 their backs, gunshot wounds to the head and cut throat. “.
Mr. Mose said the commission is currently investigating such deaths in 16 cities and settlements and has received credible allegations on many more cases that it will seek to document.
Moved to Russia
Investigators had also received “accounts of ill-treatment and torture, perpetrated while in unlawful confinement”.
Some of the victims had told investigators they had been transferred to Russia and held for weeks in jail.
Others had “disappeared” following these transfers. “Interlocutors described beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in such detention facilities,” Moses said.
The head of the commission said the investigators had also “dealt with two incidents of ill-treatment of the soldiers of the Russian Federation by the Ukrainian forces”, adding that “although there are few, such cases continue to be the subject of our attention”.
The team also documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence, Moses said, in some cases establishing that the culprits were Russian soldiers.
“There are examples of cases where relatives have been forced to testify to crimes,” he said.
“In the cases we investigated, the age of victims of sexual and gender-based violence ranged from four to 82 years.”
The commission documented a wide range of crimes against children, he said, including children who were “raped, tortured and illegally confined”.
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