Russian soldiers raped, tortured Ukrainian children, UN panel says

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Russian soldiers raped, tortured Ukrainian children, UN panel says

A cell where Ukrainian detainees, including civilians, were allegedly tortured and interrogated at the central police station in Kupiansk.

Russian soldiers have raped and tortured children in Ukraine, a UN-appointed panel of independent legal experts said in a damning statement on Friday that war crimes had been committed in the conflict. A three-person Commission of Inquiry set up in April to examine the conduct of hostilities in four areas of Ukraine laid out the graphic allegations in an unusually hard-hitting 11-minute statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The panel's chairman, Erik Mose, told the council that the commission has documented cases in which children have been raped, tortured and unlawfully confined.

The report added more chilling allegations to the list of crimes that Ukrainian and international investigators have reported on the executions of civilians in Bucha and the mass burial site near the city of Izium after it was recaptured by Ukrainian troops this month. According to the evidence gathered by the Commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. He later told reporters that the commission had not yet concluded that violations amounted to crimes against humanity. The commission found that Russian troops had committed sexual and gender-based violence, with victims ranging from four years old to 82 years old. There are examples of cases where relatives were forced to witness the crimes, said Mose, who told the council that the commission was documenting the actions of individual soldiers and had not found a general pattern of sexual violence as a war strategy.

The commission's findings were based on visits to 27 towns and settlements in the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy, and interviews with more than 150 victims and witnesses. Mose said that the experts inspected sites of destruction, graves and places of detention and torture.

Mose told the council that they were struck by the large number of executions in the areas they visited, as well as prior detention, hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head and slit throats. He said the commission is looking into reports of many more executions in 16 towns and settlements. Mose, a Norwegian judge and former president of the international criminal tribunal that prosecuted the perpetrators of Rwanda's genocide, said in interviews that witnesses provided consistent accounts of torture in detention facilities. Some victims said they had been taken to Russia and detained for weeks in prisons where they said they had been subjected to beatings, electric shocks and forced nudity. Two cases of ill-treatment of Russian soldiers by Ukrainian forces were also documented, Mr. Mose said. Such cases continue to be the subject of our attention while few in numbers, he said. Russia was not present in the council to hear the commission's statement or respond to it. Anton Korynevych, Ukraine's ambassador-at-large, called for the creation of a special tribunal with specific jurisdictions to investigate and prosecute senior Russian leaders. After the commission's presentation, he said, "We believe there has never been a more appropriate time to fill a glaring gap in international criminal justice."