UN investigators say Russian policy of relocating Ukrainian children is a war crime

Russia’s transfer of Ukrainian children to areas under its control in Ukraine as well as on its own is a “war crime”, a group of UN investigators said on Thursday, pointing to possible crimes against humanity. does.

Regarding the allegations of “genocide”, the group of investigators “did not find it”, Eric Mosse, one of the three commissioners in charge of the investigation, told reporters, although “some aspects may raise questions concerning this crime”.

“We will continue these investigations if our mandate is extended” by the Human Rights Council in early April, on the occasion of the publication of the first report of the group he chairs.

In this document, the commission of inquiry concluded that “the conditions it examined related to the transfer and deportation of children within Ukraine and to the Russian Federation, respectively, violate international humanitarian law and constitute a war crime.” Are”.

According to Kiev, 16,221 children had been deported to Russia by the end of February, which the commission could not verify. But she points to legal and political measures taken by Russian authorities regarding the transfer of Ukrainian children, and to a presidential decree in May 2022 granting Russian citizenship to some children.

Responding to the report, German Ambassador to Geneva Katharina Stasch called the Russian crimes “heinous”: “That is why we want to explicitly include child abduction investigations in the new mandate of the Commission of Inquiry”.

“The Commission also finds that the waves of attacks carried out by the Russian Armed Forces since 10 October 2022 against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and the use of torture by the Russian authorities may constitute crimes against humanity”, Mr Mosse said. .

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. Some people are systematically tortured in some centres.

– Mariupol –

The commission also attempted to verify whether the bombing and siege of Mariupol, in the south-east of Ukraine, could constitute crimes against humanity. It concluded that it lacked the elements to reach such a conclusion, having no access to the Donetsk region, where Mariupol is located, a port city that was besieged by Russian forces for months before falling in May 2022.

The commission has so far visited 56 localities and interviewed 348 women and 247 men. Its investigators specifically inspected destroyed sites and places of burial and torture.

Last September, investigators explained to the press that at that time it was too early to talk about crimes against humanity, which the NGO and Ukraine were already claiming.

On the other hand, he accused the Russian military of committing “a considerable number” of war crimes in four Ukrainian regions in the first weeks of the invasion.

All the evidence they’ve collected shows, they say, that the Russian military has committed “a wide range” of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, also known as the law of war.

“Many of them constitute war crimes and include intentional killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful imprisonment, torture, rape, forced transfers and deportation of children.”

Jasminka Zumhur, a member of the UN commission to investigate war crimes in Ukraine, during a press conference in Geneva, March 16, 2023 (AFP – Fabrice Coffrini)

Furthermore, Commissioner Jasminka Dzumhur stressed Russia’s occupation of the Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhia regions is “illegal” under international law.

The commission also indicates that it has identified “a small number of violations committed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces”, notably two incidents qualifying as war crimes, during which Russian prisoners of war were shot, Injured and tortured.

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