UN-backed investigation accuses Russia of war crimes in Ukraine

GENEVA – Russian attacks on civilians in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killings in occupied territories, constitute war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, according to a report of a United Nations-backed inquiry released on Thursday.

The comprehensive human rights report, released exactly one year to the day after a Russian airstrike on a theater in Mariupol that killed hundreds of people hiding inside, marks a most unusual condemnation by a member of the UN Security Council.

As potential crimes against humanity, the report cited repeated attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure since the fall, leaving hundreds of thousands without heat and electricity in the coldest months, and the “systematic and widespread” use of torture in several regions under Russian occupation.

“There were elements of planning and resource availability that suggest the Russian authorities may have committed torture as a crime against humanity,” said Erik Møse, a former Norwegian Supreme Court and a judge at the European Court of Human Rights, who led the investigation .

The investigation also revealed crimes against Ukrainians on Russian territory, including deported Ukrainian children being prevented from being reunited with their families, a “filtration system” designed to single out Ukrainians for detention, and torture and inhumane prison conditions.

A commission of inquiry is the most powerful tool used by the UN-backed Human Rights Council to investigate abuses and violations around the world. The probe, released on Thursday, was launched during an urgent debate shortly after last year’s Russian invasion.

The three members of the Commission are independent human rights experts and their staff are supported and funded by the Council and the UN Human Rights Office.

The report’s authors noted a “small number” of apparent violations by Ukrainian forces, including one they said was under criminal investigation by Ukrainian authorities, but reserved the vast majority of their report for allegations against Russia.

Russia did not respond to the investigation’s requests for information.

Most of the abuses revealed by the investigation were already known, and the report is far from the first to accuse Russia of war crimes. However, the findings of the inquiry come with the imprimatur of the international community: the experts are working under a mandate created overwhelmingly last year by the Human Rights Council, which brings together the governments of 47 UN member countries.

Møse, who was president of an international tribunal used to prosecute genocide cases following the 1994 massacre of members of the ethnic Tutsi minority in Rwanda, said investigators had drawn up a list of people held accountable for human rights abuses in Ukraine should be.

He said the list would be “submitted to the relevant authorities on the matter,” but the team acknowledged the difficulty of investigations involving a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Ultimately, the report can contribute to efforts to increase accountability for crimes committed during war – whether by the International Criminal Court or by some individual countries that have embraced the right to use “universal jurisdiction” to prosecute atrocities , wherever they may take place .

Source : www.washingtontimes.com

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