GENEVA, Sept 23 (Reuters) – The chair of an independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine said on Friday that it had concluded that war crimes had been committed in Ukraine following investigations conducted in four regions of the country.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Erik Møse told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
He did not say explicitly who had committed the crimes but the commission’s work was focused on areas of Ukraine previously occupied by Russian forces such as Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
Russia was called on to respond to the allegations at the council meeting but its seat was left empty. Russia regularly denies deliberately attacking civilians during what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine and has said in the past that accusations of human rights abuses are a smear campaign.
Investigators from the commission, which was created by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March, visited 27 places and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.
The commission found a large number of executions in the areas it visited including bodies with tied hands, slit throats and gunshot wounds to the head, Møse said.
He added that the investigators had identified victims of sexual violence aged between four and 82 years old. Children have been raped, tortured and unlawfully confined, he said.
Sometimes investigations launched by the Council can be used before national and international courts, such as in the case of a former Syrian intelligence officer jailed for state-backed torture in Germany in January.
UN-mandated inquiry to investigate Izium mass burial site
A U.N. mandated investigative body intends to investigate a mass burial site near Izium, in eastern Ukraine, where hundreds of bodies have been found, its head said on Friday.
“This is of course a novel incident but we certainly intend to look into the Izium event as well,” Erik Mose, who heads the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, said at a press briefing.
Asked about whether crimes against humanity had been committed, Mose said that the commission had not yet reached that conclusion citing both a lack of evidence and analysis.
Photo: A member of the Ukrainian army looks at a mass grave in front of an Orthodox church, in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, 06 April 2022. EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY