UN rights experts present evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

A panel of experts commissioned by the top U.N. human rights body to investigate rights abuses in Ukraine said on Friday that a preliminary investigation found evidence of war crimes in the country following Russia’s invasion nearly seven months ago.

Experts from the Ukrainian Commission of Inquiry authorized 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 former detainees’ testimonies of beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity in Russian detention facilities, and expressed grave concern about executions in four regions.

“We were struck by the high number of executions in the areas we visited. The commission is currently investigating such deaths in 16 cities and towns,” commission chairman Erik Mose told the council. He did not specify who or which side of the war allegedly carried out the killings.

Mose said his team had received and documented “credible allegations of many other executions.” During a 10-day trip to Ukraine in June, the team visited Bucha, a town outside Kiev where Ukrainian authorities found mass graves and corpses in the streets after Russian forces pulled out in late March.

The findings reflect reports by news outlets and others of destruction, death and despair in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24.

The commission’s work could ultimately help prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, who may bring war crimes charges in Ukraine, although it is uncertain whether Russia or other alleged perpetrators will ever face justice.

After the report of the commission, the ambassador of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Anton Korynevich, joined the representatives of several Western countries who spoke out against Moscow’s war. The Russian delegation boycotted the Council meeting.

In a video, Korynevich called for the creation of a special tribunal that would have jurisdiction over “crimes of aggression against Ukraine” and investigate alleged senior Russian political and military leaders.

He said that accountability was crucial for the rights abuses and atrocities associated with Russia’s aggression, but also highlighted how the war’s consequences had “rippled across the world and pushed many countries to the brink of starvation, exacerbated extreme poverty and created danger. an unprecedented nuclear disaster’ and damaged the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.

Investigators of the Ukrainian Investigative Committee visited 27 cities and settlements, as well as graves 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 concluded that war crimes had been committed in Ukraine,” he said.

He said the team had investigated two cases of abuse of Russian soldiers by Ukrainian forces.

Mose said an unspecified number of Russian soldiers have committed crimes of sexual or gender-based violence, with victims ranging in age from 4 to 82 years old.

The commission plans to gradually expand its investigation, with areas of interest including allegations of detention or deportation filtering camps, forced transfers of people and allegations of rapid adoption of children.

“Evidence of Russian atrocities grows more horrifying every day, most recently with the discovery of mass graves in Izium with bodies bearing signs of torture,” said Michele Taylor, the US ambassador to the Human Rights Council, referring to the city in Kharkiv Oblast that was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in recent weeks.

Taylor called on commissioners to continue to “investigate mounting evidence of Russian filtering operations, forced deportations and disappearances.”

He cited “numerous sources” indicating that between 900,000 and 1.6 million Ukrainian citizens have been interrogated, detained and/or forcibly deported by Russian authorities, and reports that children are 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 accountable.” ___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine