U.N. investigators, who have completed a first visit to Ukraine, say information gathered over the past 10 days indicates the probability that war crimes and crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed by invading Russian forces.
The U.N. Human Rights Council created the three-member Commission of Inquiry in May to investigate alleged violations and abuses of human rights in war-torn Ukraine. During its visit, the commission gave priority to four specific regions: Bucha, Irpin, Kharkiv, and Sumy, the sites of some of the worst atrocities committed in late February and March.
Commission Chair Erik Mose has described the first visit as very productive but added it was too early to make any factual findings.
“However, subject to further confirmation, the information received, and the visited sites of destruction, may support claims that serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, perhaps reaching war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed in the areas,” he said.
Mose says the commission received information about the arbitrary killing of civilians, destruction and looting of property, and attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools.
Commission member Jasminka Dzumhur says many people shared painful stories of loss. She says the commission received testimony from internally displaced people about the destruction and looting of civilian property, the mistreatment and disappearances of civilians and about rapes and other forms of sexual abuse.
She says the impact of the war on children, many of whom have been separated from families, is of great concern.
“It considers it necessary to investigate further reports about the alleged transfer of children placed in institutions in the temporarily occupied territories to the Russian Federation as well as information about expedited citizenship and adoption processes for some of these children,” she said.
The investigators plan further visits to other parts of Ukraine in coming months to gather information and evidence of abuse. They say their findings will be presented to the Human Rights Council in September.