Documenting Russian War Crimes in Ukraine

July 17th, 2022 - by Jeremy Herb, Ellie Kaufman and Kylie Atwood / CNN

Experts Document Alleged Crimes Against Humanity Committed by Russian Forces in Ukraine

Jeremy Herb, Ellie Kaufman and Kylie Atwood / CNN

(July 15, 2022) — A new report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found that patterns of violent acts by Russian forces in Ukraine meet the qualification of crimes against humanity, detailing horrific actions by Russian forces including the discovery of torture chambers at a summer camp in Bucha.

The new report released Thursday was the latest instance of groups documenting potential war crimes committed by Russian forces. The OSCE experts who put together the report traveled to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian authorities there as well as Bucha and Irpin, where they found “grave breaches” of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention.

The report “found credible evidence” that suggested “some patterns of violent acts which had been repeatedly documented during the conflict,” including “killing, rape abductions or massive deportations of civilians, qualified as a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.”

The OSCE mission that compiled the report wrote that 1.3 million Ukrainian citizens have been deported against their will to Russia and said there was evidence that tens of thousands of civilians had been detained at so-called filtration centers before being transported to Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.

US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter said in a statement that the report “gives us an opportunity to pull back and document the unconscionable atrocity crimes, human rights violations, and abuses members of Russia’s forces have committed.”

This week’s report is the second that OSCE has released documenting atrocities committed against the Ukrainian population. In April, the group released its first reportwith similar findings of “credible evidence” suggesting violations of “even the most fundamental human rights.”

Together, both reports “comprise the most comprehensive accounting of evidence to date of Russia’s human rights abuses, international humanitarian law violations,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement after the second report’s release Thursday.

“The United States and our partners will seek to hold accountable those responsible for all human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, they commit in Ukraine,” Price added.

Russian war crimes committed in Ukraine.

The report noted that it had identified “numerous violations” of international humanitarian law that constituted war crimes, “if the responsible individuals can be found.”

“These violations included mistreatment of prisoners of war, deliberate killing of civilians, deliberate attacks against civilians and against civilian objects, including schools, hospitals or cultural property, or the failure to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precautions,” the report said.

The second report covered the period between April 1 to June 25. The OSCE experts traveled to Ukraine to collect evidence, including visiting the towns of Bucha and Irpin, which the report said were “two emblematic examples of the breaches of International Humanitarian Law under the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, which constitute war crimes.”

The experts noted that photographic and video evidence showed Russian forces caried out “targeted, organized killings of civilians in Bucha” who were found shot dead with their hands tied behind their backs.

‘Series of Torture Chambers’
The report documented a “series of torture chambers separated by concrete walls” discovered at a summer camp in Bucha, including a room that the report said appeared to be used for executions with bullet holes in the walls.

In another room where experts said there was evidence of torture and waterboarding, five dead men were found. “They were covered with burns, bruises, and lacerations,” the report said.

In another village in Bucha, the bodies of 18 men, women, and children were discovered in a basement. The report said that “some had their ears cut off, while others had their teeth pulled out.”

The OSCE mission wrote that reports of women and girls being raped and sexually abused by Russian forces “have become abundant,” especially in newly occupied territories.

The report noted several particularly atrocious cases, including a report from the Commissioner for Human Rights Denisova, who said that 25 girls aged 14-24 were kept in a basement in Bucha and gang-raped. Nine became pregnant, the report said.

The report also documented instances of Ukrainian civilians being used as “human shields,” being forced to fight alongside Russians against their own country in the ongoing war and being displaced to Russia without their consent.

The report noted, “Russian soldiers used over 300 Ukrainian civilians as human shields and held them captive for 25 days in March in the basement of Yahidne School, where a major Russian military camp was located.”

Conscription, meaning forced military service, “was imposed on all local men between the age of 18 and 65 in areas under Russian control in the Donbas as well as of the oblasts of Kharkiv, Kherson, and Sumy,” the report said.

“Approximately 2,000 children from various orphanages and children’s institutions” have been “purportedly transferred to Russia, even though they have living relatives and were in the institutions only for medical care,” according to the report.

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