(Geneva) Russia’s transfer of Ukrainian children to areas under its control in Ukraine as well as to its own territory constitutes a “war crime”, a group of UN investigators said Thursday, which also points to possible crimes against humanity.
Regarding the “genocide” charges, the group of investigators “didn’t see it”, Erik Mose, one of the three commissioners in charge of the investigations, told reporters, noting however “that certain aspects can raise questions about this crime. “.
“We will continue these investigations if our mandate is extended” in early April by the Human Rights Council, he promised, on the occasion of the publication of the first report of the group he chairs.
In this document, the Commission of Inquiry concludes that “the situations it examined concerning the transfer and deportation of children, within Ukraine and to the Russian Federation respectively, violate international humanitarian law and constitute a war crime”.
According to Kyiv, 16,221 children were deported to Russia up to the end of February, figures the Commission could not verify. But she points to the legal and political measures taken by Russian officials regarding the transfer of Ukrainian children, and the presidential decree in May 2022 facilitating the granting of Russian citizenship to certain children.
We will shed light on these crimes and hold their perpetrators to account. This is why we want to explicitly include the investigation of child abductions in the new mandate of the commission of inquiry.
Reacting to the report, German Ambassador to Geneva Katharina Stasch called the Russian crimes “heinous”: “That’s why we want to explicitly include the investigation of child abductions in the new mandate of the commission of investigation “.
“The Commission also found that the waves of attacks carried out by the Russian armed forces from October 10, 2022 against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and the use of torture by the Russian authorities could constitute crimes against humanity said Mr. Mose.
Investigators were able to identify “a pattern of widespread illegal detention” in areas controlled by the Russian armed forces, targeting many people, including women and children. In some centers, some people are systematically tortured.
The Commission also tried to verify whether the bombardment and siege of Mariupol, in the south-east of Ukraine, could constitute a crime against humanity. She concluded that she lacked the elements to reach such a conclusion, not having had access to the Donetsk region, where Mariupol is located, a port city besieged for months by the Russian army before falling into May 2022.
The Commission has so far visited 56 localities and interviewed 348 women and 247 men. Its investigators notably inspected destroyed sites and places of burials and torture.
Last September the investigators had explained to the press that it was then too early to speak of crimes against humanity, contrary to what NGOs and Ukraine were already claiming.
Instead, they accused Russian forces of committing a “considerable number” of war crimes in four Ukrainian regions in the first weeks of the invasion.
The body of evidence they have since collected shows, they say, that Russian forces “committed a wide range” of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, also known as the laws of war.
“Many of these constitute war crimes and include deliberate killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape, forcible transfer and deportation of children.”
Furthermore, Commissioner Jasminka Dzumhur stressed, Russia’s annexation of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhia regions “is illegal” under international law.
The Commission also says it has documented “a small number of violations committed by the Ukrainian armed forces”, including two incidents qualified as war crimes, in which Russian prisoners of war were shot, injured and tortured.