The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine presented a detailed report on a large number of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by Russian forces in Ukraine to the UN General Assembly.

The document, published on the UN website, refers to findings about events during late February and March 2022 in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy regions.

In particular, the Commission documented “indiscriminate attacks with explosive weapons in populated areas that were under attack by Russian armed forces.” It is noted that the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas caused 1,495 deaths and injuries in the four regions, but “the actual numbers are likely higher.” In addition, thousands of residential buildings, schools, hospitals, and facilities hosting essential infrastructure in the four regions have been damaged or destroyed.

The report documents the indiscriminate attacks using cluster munitions, unguided rockets, and air strikes.

Moreover, the Commission has found that “in several cases, Russian armed forces appear to have deliberately positioned their troops or equipment in residential areas or near civilians to reduce the likelihood of attacks.” At the same time, “Russian armed forces also forced civilians to remain inside or in the proximity of their positions, exposing them to significant risk.”

The Commission “found numerous cases in which Russian armed forces shot at civilians trying to flee to safety and obtain food or other necessities, which resulted in the killing or injury of the victims.” Several of the attacks took place as civilians came across Russian military convoys that were on the move.

The document points out the exposed “human rights and international humanitarian law violations against people’s personal integrity committed in towns and settlements that Russian armed forces had occupied in the four regions.” These violations included summary executions, torture, ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, unlawful confinement and detention in inhumane conditions, and forced deportations. Such acts also amount to war crimes.

The Commission is investigating credible allegations of similar executions in 16 other towns and settlements involving 49 victims. A common element is that victims were last seen in the custody or the presence of Russian armed forces. The bodies of the victims were exhumed from separate or mass graves or recovered from houses or basements that the Russian armed forces had occupied.

The Commission established that “in late February and March 2022, Russian armed forces unlawfully confined large numbers of civilians in area that they controlled, which is a violation of the right to liberty and a war crime.” In the majority of cases, the detention took place under inhuman conditions. “Unlawful confinement was often the precursor to executions, sexual violence, torture, and ill-treatment,” the document says.

In addition, the “Commission has been investigating cases of rape committed by some Russian armed forces soldiers in localities that came under their control, which are war crimes.” Victims range from four to over 80 years old. Perpetrators raped the women and girls in their homes or took them and raped them in unoccupied dwellings.

The document also says that “the Ukrainian forces have also committed international humanitarian law violations in some cases, including two incidents that qualify as war crimes.” The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine informed that criminal proceedings regarding both cases had been opened.

The Commission reports that it will gradually devote more of its resources to the broader temporal, geographical, and thematic framework set. Issues of interest will include possible violations in filtration camps, alleged forced transfers of people, and expedited adoptions of children, as well as so-called referenda held by Russia in the occupied territories.

Bohdan Marusyak

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