Murder, torture, rape and deportation. An independent UN commission found numerous war crimes committed by the Russians, but not genocide

Anhelina Sheremet

The Russian authorities have committed numerous violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law in many regions of Ukraine, many of which amount to war crimes.

This is stated in the new report of the UN Independent International Commission to Investigate Violations in Ukraine, which was released on March 16.

War crimes include attacks on civilians and energy infrastructure, intentional killings, illegal imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the illegal transfer and deportation of children.

At the same time, the head of this commission Eric Möse told journalists that they did not find evidence of genocide. "We did not find that there was a genocide in Ukraine," he noted, adding that "there are some aspects that may raise questions about a possible genocide."

The commission has evidence to show that Russia deliberately killed vulnerable people in the occupied territories — which is a war crime and a violation of the right to life.

Russian troops also shelled populated areas, disregarding the safety of civilians. This use of explosive weapons in populated areas was one of the main causes of civilian casualties. The commission "was shocked" by the scale of destruction it saw during its visits.

Russiaʼs serial attacks on Ukraineʼs energy infrastructure since October 10, 2022 could be equated to crimes against humanity, the commission said, which said the matter requires further investigation. These attacks left entire regions and millions of people without electricity or heating for periods of time, especially during cold weather.

The commission established the systematic widespread illegal imprisonment in the occupied territories, which affected men, women and children and was accompanied by torture.

In addition, the UN commission found numerous cases of rape and sexual violence committed by Russians during searches in the occupied territories, as well as during illegal imprisonment. Sexual violence, amounting to torture, and threats of such violence against women and men were essential aspects of torture.

As for the transfer of children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation, the situations studied by the commission are equated to war crimes. Witnesses told the UN that many of the displaced young children have not been able to make contact with their families and may lose contact with them indefinitely. Delaying the repatriation of civilians can also be equated to a war crime.

The commission also documented a small number of violations committed by the Ukrainian military. These are alleged indiscriminate attacks and two possible war crimes in which Russian prisoners of war were shot, wounded and tortured.

The commission recommends investigating all violations and crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice both at the national and international levels. It [the commision] calls for both criminal liability and the victimsʼ right to truth, reparations and non-repetition.

  • 32 states have already joined the coalition to create a Special Tribunal against Russia for the crime of aggression against Ukraine. According to the national law of any country, the president of another country, the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs have personal immunity from criminal prosecution. In order to bring them to criminal responsibility, an international mechanism based on the norms of international law is needed.
  • Currently, approximately 70 000 cases of war crimes by Russians have been opened in Ukraine. The collection of evidence and the investigation of crimes are not only handled by the Prosecutor Generalʼs Office, but also by the International Criminal Court, prosecutors and investigators of third countries, as well as human rights organizations. The dialogue group will allow to coordinate and unite all these participants.
  • On November 23, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The parliamentarians also called for the creation of a special international tribunal.