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Commission of Inquiry finds further evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

A playground lies in ruins near  in the village of Groza in eastern Ukraine.
© Yevhen Nosenko
A playground lies in ruins near in the village of Groza in eastern Ukraine.

Commission of Inquiry finds further evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

Human Rights

A new UN report has found continued evidence of war crimes and human rights violations committed by Russian authorities in Ukraine, including torture, rape and the deportation of children. 

The report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, published on Friday, follows a study issued in March.  

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It documents additional indiscriminate attacks with explosive weapons, resulting in deaths, injuries and the destruction and damage of civilian objects.

For example, 24 people, mostly women and children, were killed in an attack on a multistorey block of residential apartments in Uman, a city in the Cherkasy region, in April, and part of the building became uninhabitable.  Commissioners spoke with residents during their recent visit to the country.

New evidence, same torture pattern

Their investigations also confirmed previous findings that Russian authorities used torture in a widespread and systematic way in various types of detention facilities.

New evidence collected in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions found Russian authorities used the same pattern of torture in areas under their control, mainly against men suspected of passing information to the Ukrainian authorities or supporting the Ukrainian armed forces.

The commissioners said their interviews with victims and witnesses revealed “a profound disregard towards human dignity by Russian authorities”. Witnesses reported situations in which torture had been committed so brutally that the victim died.

Lasting traumatic impacts

Recent investigations in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions showed that rape and other sexual violence were often committed together with additional acts of violence, including severe beatings, strangling, suffocating, slashing, shooting next to the head of the victim, and wilful killing.

In one instance, a 75-year-old woman who stayed alone to protect her property, was raped and tortured by a Russian soldier who hit her on the face, chest, and ribs, and strangled her, while interrogating her.

The soldier ordered the woman to undress and when she refused, he ripped off her clothes, cut her abdomen with a small sharp object and raped her several times. The woman also suffered several broken ribs and teeth.

Such traumatic experiences have severe and long-term consequences for the physical and mental health of the victims, the report said.

Unlawful child deportations

The Commissioners investigated further accounts of Ukrainian children being transferred to Russia or to Russian-occupied areas in Ukraine. They concluded that the transfer of 31 children to Russia in May 2022 was an unlawful deportation, thus a war crime.

Their report also contains three cases where investigations showed that Ukrainian authorities committed violations of human rights against persons accused of collaboration with Russia.

They underlined the importance of accountability “with full respect and care for the rights of the victims.”

The UN Human Rights Council established the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine in March 2022, shortly after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion. The mandate was extended in April for an additional year.

The three Commissioners are not UN staff and do not receive payment for their work.