Original post by United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner
NEW YORK/ VIENNA, 18 October 2022 – Based on its investigations of the events in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy regions in late February and March 2022, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has found reasonable grounds to conclude that an array of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed in Ukraine. Given the gravity of the identified violations, there is an undeniable need for accountability, the Commission said on the day of submitting a detailed written report to the UN General Assembly.
“The impact of these violations on the civilian population in Ukraine is immense. The loss of lives is in the thousands. The destruction of infrastructure is devastating,” said Chair of the Commission Erik Møse.
The Commission documented attacks where explosive weapons were used indiscriminately in populated areas that were under attack by Russian armed forces. The Commission also found that Russian armed forces attacked civilians attempting to flee.
There are also examples of both parties to the armed conflict, although to different degrees, failing to protect civilians or civilian objects against the effects of attacks, by locating military objects and forces within or near densely populated areas.
Russian armed forces are responsible for the vast majority of the violations identified, including war crimes. Ukrainian forces have also committed international humanitarian law violations in some cases, including two incidents that qualify as war crimes.
The Commission documented patterns of summary executions, unlawful confinement, torture, ill-treatment, rape and other sexual violence committed in areas occupied by Russian armed forces across the four regions on which it focused. People have been detained, some have been unlawfully deported to the Russian Federation, and many are still reported missing. Sexual violence has affected victims of all ages. Family members, including children, were sometimes forced to witness the crimes.
These violations continue to have a devastating effect on civilians. Significantly, victims emphasised the essential role of justice and accountability. Family members who lost loved ones have expressed a strong need for justice to be done. A stepfather whose son was killed in Bucha told the Commission: “I used to want to find those who were responsible and kill them. But now I want the guilty to be put on trial and I want the truth to come out.”
In this regard, the Commission recommends enhanced coordination of international and national accountability efforts to improve effectiveness and prevent harm to victims and witnesses. The Commission, consistent with its mandate, will seek to contribute to the identification of those responsible.
The Commission visited 27 towns and settlements and has interviewed 191 victims and witnesses. Its investigators inspected sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture, as well as weapon remnants, and consulted a large number of documents and reports.
Having paid particular attention to violations committed in the four regions specified in the May resolution – Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy – the Commission will gradually devote more of its resources to the broader time scope, wider geographical and thematic framework as tasked by the March resolution.
Issues of interest will include possible violations in filtration camps, alleged forced transfers of people, conditions under which expedited adoptions of children are allegedly taking place, as well as changes in local administration and so-called referenda, the consequences of which are becoming clearer given recent events.
The full report as submitted to the UN General Assembly can be found here.
The Members of the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine are available for interviews.
The United Nations Human Rights Council created the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine to investigate violations and abuses of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law, and related crimes that may have been committed in the context of the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. The Commission is required to present its findings and recommendations, including on accountability of those responsible for the violations, to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2023. The Commission comprises Erik Møse (Chair), Jasminka Džumhur and Pablo de Greiff.