GENEVA, Sept 23 (Reuters) – The head of an independent commission of inquiry into Ukraine said on Friday it had concluded that war crimes had been committed in Ukraine after investigations in four regions of the country.
“On the basis of the evidence collected by the commission, the commission has come to the conclusion that war crimes were committed in Ukraine,” Erik Møse told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
It was not specifically said who committed the crimes, but the commission’s work focused on areas of Ukraine previously occupied by the Russian army, such as Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkov and Sumy.
Russia was asked to respond to the allegations at the council meeting, but its seat went vacant. Russia has repeatedly denied deliberately targeting civilians during its “special military operation” – as the Kremlin calls it – in Ukraine and has in the past said allegations of human rights abuses are a smear campaign.
Investigators from the commission set up by the UN Human Rights Council in March visited 27 sites and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses.
The commission found a large number of executions in the areas it visited, including bodies with their hands tied, throats slashed and gunshot wounds to the head, Møse said.
He added that investigators had identified victims of sexual violence between the ages of four and 82. Some children have been illegally raped, tortured and imprisoned, he said.
Occasionally, investigations initiated by the Council can be used before national and international courts, as in the case of a former Syrian intelligence officer who was arrested in Germany in January on state-sponsored torture charges.
(Reporting by Emma Farge, Editing by Rachel More, William Maclean, Translated by Tomás Cobos)