Rights experts reports rape, torture by Russian forces continues


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 26th Sept. The members of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine on Monday told the UN Human Rights Council that Russian forces in Ukraine faced new allegations of war crimes as they published the findings of their latest report on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

They told the Council in Geneva that they have documented attacks with explosive weapons on residential buildings, civilian infrastructure and medical institutions, as well as torture and sexual and gender-based violence.

Commission Chair Erik Møse provided horrific details on the findings to the Council, noted that in the Kherson region, “Russian soldiers raped and committed sexual violence against women of ages from 19 to 83 years”, with threats or commission of other violations.

Mr. Møse said “Frequently, family members were kept in an adjacent room, thereby forced to hear the violations taking place”.

The Commission said that its investigations in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia indicated the “widespread and systematic” use of torture by Russian armed forces against persons accused of being informants of the Ukrainian military, which in some cases led to death. 

Mr. Møse quoted a victim of torture as saying, “Every time I answered that I didn’t know or didn’t remember something, they gave me electric shocks… I don’t know how long it lasted. It felt like an eternity.”

The Commissioners indicated that they have to investigate individual situations of alleged transfers of unaccompanied children by Russian authorities to the Russian Federation. 

“This item remains very high on our priority list,” Mr. Møse assured the Council.

The Commission voiced concern about allegations of genocide in Ukraine, warning that “some of the rhetoric transmitted in Russian state and other media may constitute incitement to genocide”

Mr. Møse said that the Commission was “continuing its investigations on such issues”.  

They emphasized the need for accountability and expressed regret about the fact that all of their communications addressed to the Russian Federation “remain unanswered”.  

The Commissioners urged the Ukrainian authorities to “expeditiously and thoroughly” investigate the few cases of violations by its own forces.

The human rights investigators strongly refuted any suggestions of an equivalence in the violations committed by both sides. 

Mr. Møse stressed that on the Russian side, the Commission had found a “wide spectrum” and “large number of violations”.

On the Ukrainian side, there were “a few examples” related to indiscriminate attacks as well as “ill-treatment of Russians in Ukrainian captivity”, he said.

The latest update reflects the Commission’s investigations during its second mandate, which started in April this year.

Mr. Møse said that it was now undertaking “more in-depth investigations” regarding unlawful attacks with explosive weapons, attacks affecting civilians, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and attacks on energy infrastructure.

“This may also clarify whether torture and attacks on energy infrastructure amount to crimes against humanity,” Mr. Mose stated.

The International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine was established by the Human Rights Council on 4 March 2022 to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law and related crimes in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by Russia.

Three members are Chair Erik Møse, Pablo de Greiff and Vrinda Grover.

The mandate of the Commission of Inquiry was extended by the Council last April for a period of one year. Its next report to the General Assembly is due in October.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said in a message that “We are not going anywhere” about the agency’s commitment to monitor Ukraine’s nuclear power plants during Russia’s ongoing invasion.

UN head Antonio Guterres said that he applauded the “courageous service” of IAEA personnel stationed at the plant.

He pledged that the UN will do “all it can” to ensure the safe rotation of experts operating across Ukraine’s five nuclear facilities.

Mr. Grossi said that 53 missions mobilizing more than 100 agency staff have been deployed as part of a continued presence inside Ukraine’s five nuclear power plants.

These include the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, or ZNPP, on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine, where Mr. Grossi said that the situation remained “very fragile”.

The ZNPP nuclear plant is controlled by Russian forces but operated by its Ukrainian staff.

It is Europe’s largest nuclear plant and the IAEA has been monitoring the situation since the early days of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

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