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‘Immense challenges’ block justice for Ukrainian war victims, rights experts warn

In Lviv, Ukraine, a 12-year-old boy rests on a bed at Saint Nicholas Pediatric Hospital. (file)
© UNICEF/Diego Ibarra Sánchez
In Lviv, Ukraine, a 12-year-old boy rests on a bed at Saint Nicholas Pediatric Hospital. (file)

‘Immense challenges’ block justice for Ukrainian war victims, rights experts warn

Peace and Security

Justice and accountability for Ukraine’s war victims were among the topics raised by the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine during its latest country visit, which concluded on Monday.

Speaking in Kyiv, Commission Chair Erik Møse pointed to continuing patterns of violations by Russian armed forces, including wilful killings, unlawful confinement, torture, rape, and illegal deportations, many of which qualify as war crimes.

According to the Commission, the Ukrainian legal system faced “immense challenges” to provide accountability and justice to the victims and ensure comprehensive redress for the survivors.

Reparations programme

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Mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate violations committed since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the Commission said that it has “followed closely” discussions about reparations.

Commission member Pablo de Greiff said reparations initiatives should be designed in close consultation with victims.

“The establishment of a comprehensive reparations programmes is a long-term process, which should be distinguished from, but also coordinated with, national reconstruction programmes, and property restitution and repair programmes,” he said.

Such initiatives should also be designed in close consultation with the victims, he added.

The rights experts also stressed that the delivery of urgent mental health and psychosocial support to victims remained a challenge.

The Commission has visited Ukraine more than 10 times. The current visit began in the Cherkasy region and continued to Kyiv, where the experts met with authorities and civilians affected by the war.

Report shows evidence of war crimes

The Commission released a paper in late August, concluding that, among other things, “torture used by Russian authorities has been widespread and systematic and may amount to crimes against humanity, if confirmed by further investigations”.

It also found “a pattern of summary executions in towns and villages that were close to the frontlines, where Russian armed forces came into frequent contact with local residents”.

In its report in March, the Commission showed that Russian authorities had “committed a wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law" in many regions of Ukraine and in Russia.

Concluding that “Russian armed forces have carried out attacks with explosive weapons in populated areas with an apparent disregard for civilian harm and suffering”, the Commission documented indiscriminate and disproportionate strikes, and a failure to take precautions, in violation of international humanitarian law.

One of the damaged power substations in Ukraine.
© UNDP/Oleksandr Ratushniak
One of the damaged power substations in Ukraine.

Mandated investigations

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine is an independent body mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to, among other things, investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and related crimes in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Its aim is to establish the facts, circumstances, and root causes of any such violations and abuses; and to collect, consolidate, and analyse evidence of such violations and abuses, including their gender dimension, in view of any future legal proceedings.

Attacks impact global food security

Denise Brown, Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine for the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, raised an alarm on Monday about multiple attacks on ports.

“I am appalled by the far-reaching humanitarian consequences of the repeated Russian attacks on Ukraine’s Danube ports and agricultural assets, affecting global food security,” she said in a social media post.

“From struggling Ukrainian farmers to families worldwide grappling with rising food costs, the impact is devastating already.”