UN Commission accuses Russia of war crimes in Ukraine

16 March, 07:27 PM
A civilian killed by the Russian military in Bucha (Photo:REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)

A civilian killed by the Russian military in Bucha (Photo:REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)

Russia’s systemic attacks against Ukrainian civilians, including murder and torture in the occupied regions, amount to war crimes and perhaps even crimes against humanity, says a report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, according to the Associated Press

AP noted that the sweeping human rights report, released a year to the day after a Russian airstrike on a theater in Mariupol that killed hundreds sheltering inside, marked a highly unusual condemnation of a UN Security Council member.

The Commission found numerous instances of rape and sexual and gender-based violence committed by Russian soldiers as they undertook house-to-house visits in localities that came under their control during their unlawful occupation.

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The Commission also noted the illegal transfer and relocation of children could also amount to war crimes.

The Commission said it has seen evidence that the Russian military has committed wilful killings of civilians or persons not involved in fighting (hors de combat), which are war crimes and violations of the right to life.

Russian armed forces have also carried out attacks with explosive weapons in populated areas with a disregard for civilian harm and suffering, while failing to take the required precautions. The attacks were indiscriminate and disproportionate, in violation of international humanitarian law.

“The Commission was struck by the extent of the destruction it has observed during its visits,” reads the report.

Among potential crimes against humanity, the report cited repeated attacks targeting Ukrainian infrastructure since October 2022 that have left hundreds of thousands without heat and electricity during the coldest months, as well as the “systematic and widespread” use of torture across multiple regions under Russian occupation, AP reported.

The report’s authors also noted a “small number” of apparent violations by Ukrainian forces, including one they said was under criminal investigation by Ukrainian authorities, but concluded that the vast majority of reported war crimes allegations concern Russia.

According to AP, a commission of inquiry is the most powerful tool used by the UN-backed Human Rights Council to scrutinize abuses and violations around the world. The investigation released on March 16 was set up during an urgent debate shortly after Russia’s invasion last year.

The commission’s three members are independent human rights experts, and its staff is supported and funded by the council and the UN Human Rights office.

The report may add to efforts to boost accountability for Russia’s war crimes – whether by the International Criminal Court or by some individual countries that have taken on the right to apply “universal jurisdiction” to prosecute atrocities, wherever they may take place.

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