The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine was established by the Human Rights Council in March 2022 to investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as related crimes in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Commission submitted reports to the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council in New York in October 2023. It was then requested to provide an update to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2024. The commission chairperson, Erik Møse, delivered a summary of the March report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva on March 15.

Møse said that they had uncovered evidence that Russian authorities had committed violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, and corresponding war crimes, in the occupied areas of Ukraine and against the civil population in general.

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He expressed continuing concern about the use of explosive weapons in civilian areas, which he categorized as “… a pattern of disregard by the Russian armed forces for possible harm to civilians.” He specifically drew attention to the widespread destruction and the “unbearable suffering endured by the residents of Mariupol during [weeks of] relentless shelling and aerial bombardments” that caused large-scale death, injury, and destruction.

Møse said that sustained indiscriminate attacks by Russian armed forces on residential areas violated international humanitarian law particularly against protected civilian objects such as hospitals and cultural property.

WORLD BRIEFING: April 21, 2024
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WORLD BRIEFING: April 21, 2024

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He said: “We are concerned at the scale, continuation, and gravity of violations and crimes that the Commission has investigated and the impact on victims and the affected communities.”

New evidence uncovered since October reinforced previous findings that there has been widespread and systematic torture against civilians by Russian authorities in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation.

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The current report also focused on torture and ill treatment against Ukrainian prisoners of war which he described as “relentless, brutal treatment inflicting severe pain and suffering during prolonged detention, with blatant disregard for human dignity. This has led to long-lasting physical and mental trauma.”

The report provides the details of specific case histories of torture and beatings of prisoners with more than one Ukrainian soldier saying “I lost any hope and the will to live.”

The commission’s investigations found additional evidence of the unlawful transfer of children to areas under Russian control and the Russian Federation.

Møse said the report documents occurrences of rape and other sexual violence committed against women and incidents of torture with a sexualized dimension and threats of rape against male prisoners of war.

The report also describes a small number of violations of human rights by Ukrainian authorities against suspected collaborators, which Kyiv says is being investigated.

The report reflects the Commission’s findings during its second mandate. The Commission will present its report to the full UN Human Rights Council in Geneva early next week.

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