The UN commission is collecting information about war crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine. How to tell international experts about them — step-by-step instructions

Oksana Kovalenko
Dmytro Rayevskyi
The UN commission is collecting information about war crimes committed by Russians in Ukraine. How to tell international experts about them — step-by-step instructions

Anastasiia Lysytsia / «Babel'»

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry in Ukraine is collecting information on war crimes committed after February 24, 2022. The commission includes three persons: Norwegian Erik Møse, Colombian Pablo de Greiff and Indian lawyer Vrinda Grover. They are assisted by a secretariat of about 20 employees — professional human rights investigators and legal analysts. The Commission publishes reports and reports to the UN General Assembly. Also, it can transfer information to the International Criminal Court or national courts of other countries. From May to August 2024, the commission asks victims and crime witnesses to tell about crimes known to them. Testimonies can also be submitted by groups or organizations that have information about crimes. Part of the testimony will later be made public in the report of the General Assembly and in the report to the UN Human Rights Council. It is important to tell the commission about the crimes, even if the Ukrainian law enforcement officers already know about them. The testimony will become evidence for the international community and courts and will not allow Russia to deny it. Babel correspondent Oksana Kovalenko spoke with UN Commission member Pablo de Greiff and tells how to submit applications and what exactly is needed for this. Itʼs quite simple.

Which crimes should be reported to the commission

The commission deals with serious and systemic violations. One of its tasks is to identify patterns of behavior or patterns of crime. The commission is mainly interested in:

  • violation of the rights of prisoners of war, including torture and execution;
  • violations of civil rights, including torture, sexual violence, illegal detentions and disappearances, makeshift prisons and torture chambers. And also — what power structures or services organized them. Especially important are the testimonies of civilians who returned from Russian captivity;
  • the civilian consequences of attacks on energy infrastructure. In particular, how the spheres of healthcare and education was affected by this;
  • the use of powerful explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas.

If the crime does not fall into either category, the testimony should still be provided. The decision on whether it falls under the commissionʼs requirements will be made by the investigators.

Commissioners during their visit to Ukraine.

Commissioners during their visit to Ukraine.

Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine / «Бабель»

How to submit an application

There are two ways to do this:

  • Members of the UN commission visit Ukraine at least three times a year. And investigators do this even more often — up to 16 times — to collect evidence and talk to victims and witnesses. Investigatorsʼ visits are not announced publicly, so only they are the initiators of the conversation. Before the visit, investigators conduct research on who to interview. They usually get information from the news, from human rights organizations or local authorities.

    But the commissionersʼ visits are announced publicly, in particular, in the social networks of UN representative offices and divisions. There is a contact phone number and email where you can write to meet them and talk about the crimes.
  • You can write a letter to [email protected] stating that you have information about a particular crime. The letter will be received by an investigator who deals with this type of crime. He will send a special link where you can download all the necessary information: documents, photos, videos. And after that, the investigator and the victim or witness agree on safe ways to talk, for example through Signal.

    The commission has translators, so information can be submitted in Ukrainian. If a person wants to communicate orally, an investigator accompanied by an interpreter will contact him. The commission will also keep in touch with the applicant for some time after receiving the application and inform about where exactly the information is going.

Important! Testimony is not collected constantly. The terms are limited, because the commission must process all the received information and prepare reports in time. There is a separate section on the commissionʼs website named Call for submissions with a link to all the details. If the commissionʼs mandate is extended next spring, it will announce the next collection of applications.

Once again about safety

The commission protects all information related to victims and witnesses of crimes. Personal data is disclosed only with the consent of the applicants.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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