The Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, an investigation body set up by the United Nations, concluded that war crimes, including rape, torture and confinement of children, have been committed in Russia-occupied Ukraine.
"Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine," Erik Mose, who heads the body, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, according to Reuters.
Mose didn't spell out who was responsible for most of these crimes, but the commission has focused on areas that were previously occupied by Russian forces but have since been freed, including Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
The commission was created in March of 2022. Its investigators visited 27 places and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.
"We have inspected sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture, as well as weapon remnants, and consulted a large number of documents and reports. The Commission met with Government authorities, international organisations, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders," Erik Mose said in his statement.
"Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine," he added.
‘I Don’t Live, I Just Exist'
The commission found that the use of explosive weapons "with wide area effects" in populated areas is a source of "immense harm and suffering" for civilians.
"We observed first-hand the damage that explosive weapons have caused to residential buildings and infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. In Kharkiv city, explosive weapons devastated entire areas of the city," Mose said, adding that most of the recorded deaths were caused by such weapons.
“I don’t live, I just exist; I have nothing left in my soul," an older woman, who fled as hostilities raged in Kharkiv area, told the commission's investigators.
A number of the attacks in these areas were carried out without distinguishing between civilians and combatants. The commission also received credible allegations regarding many cases in which people were executed.
"Common elements of such crimes include the prior detention of the victims as well as visible signs of executions on bodies, such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats," Mose said.
"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 prisons. Interlocutors described beatings, electric shocks, and forced nudity, as well as other types of violations in such detention facilities," he added.
Sexual and Gender-based Violence
The Commission also found that some Russian Federation soldiers committed sexual and gender-based violence.
"These acts amounted to different types of violations of rights, including sexual violence, torture, and cruel and inhuman treatment. There are examples of cases where relatives were forced to witness the crimes. In the cases we have investigated, the age of victims of sexual and gender-based violence ranged from four to 82 years," Erik Mose said.
The commission documented cases in which children have been raped, tortured, and unlawfully confined. Children have also been killed and injured in indiscriminate attacks with explosive weapons, it said.
According to the commission, the exposure to repeated explosions, crimes, forced displacement and separation from family members "deeply affected" their well-being and mental health.