UN Commission concludes that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine, expresses concern about suffering of civilians
23 September 2022
GENEVA, 23 September 2022 - Based on its investigations into events in the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.
The Commission has documented violations, such as the illegal use of explosive weapons, indiscriminate attacks, violations of personal integrity, including executions, torture and ill-treatment, and sexual and gender-based violence. It also found that the rights of children have been violated.
On a visit to Ukraine in June 2022, the Commission observed first-hand the damage that explosive weapons with wide-area effects caused to residential buildings and infrastructure in populated areas, including schools and hospitals. A number of the attacks that the Commission investigated were carried out without distinguishing between civilians and combatants.
“We were struck by the large number of executions in the areas that we visited,” Erik Møse, chair of the Commission, said. “We are concerned about the suffering that the international armed conflict in Ukraine has imposed on the civilian population.”
He added that the Commission is currently investigating executions in 16 towns and settlements, and has received credible allegations regarding many more such cases. Common elements to these crimes included the prior detention of the victims and visible signs of execution, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats.
Witnesses provided the Commission with consistent accounts of ill-treatment and torture carried out during unlawful confinement. Some of the victims reported that after initial detention by Russian forces in Ukraine, they were transferred to the Russian Federation and held for weeks in detention centres, where they were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
The investigation into sexual and gender-based violence has shown that some Russian Federation soldiers committed such crimes. The age of victims of sexual and gender-based violence ranged from four to 82 years.
The Commission has also found that children were exposed to repeated explosions, violations, forced displacement and separation from family members, as well as other violations.
In the four areas where the investigation was conducted -- Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy -- the Commission processed two incidents of ill-treatment against Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian forces. While few in number, such cases continue to be the subject of the Commission’s attention.
The Commission visited 27 towns and settlements and has interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses. Its investigators inspected sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture, as well as weapon remnants, and consulted a large number of documents and reports.
In the course of its investigation, the Commission met with Government authorities, international organisations, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders.
The United Nations Human Rights Council created the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine to investigate violations and abuses of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law, and other crimes that may have been committed in the context of the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. The Commission is required to present its findings and recommendations, including on accountability of those responsible for the violations to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2023. Before then, the Commission will submit a report to the General Assembly in October 2022. The Commission comprises Erik Møse (chair), Jasminka Džumhur and Pablo de Greiff.
Saule Mukhametrakhimova, Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine Media Adviser, at firstname.lastname@example.org / +43 676 3493464
Rolando Gómez, HRC Media Officer, at email@example.com / +41 (0)22 917 97 11
Matthew Brown, HRC Public Information Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org / +41 (0)22 917 98 13
or Pascal Sim, HRC Public Information Officer, at email@example.com / +41 (0) 917 97 63.