Russian troops raped and tortured children in Ukraine, and brutally executed a “large number” of civilians among an appalling list of “war crimes” uncovered in a shocking investigation for the United Nations.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine — convened in March and staffed by international legal experts — reported the disturbing findings Friday in Geneva, describing a long list of appalling abuses and atrocities by Russian forces.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine,” Erik Mose, a Norwegian judge and chairman of the three-member commission, said in a statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Among the most disturbing crimes the commission has documented involve cases in which children were “raped, tortured and unlawfully confined,” according to the findings.
The age of “victims of sexual and gendered-based violence ranged from 4 to 82 years,” Mose said in a statement. In some cases ”relatives were forced to witness the crimes,” Mose noted in his statement.
Children were also killed and wounded in “indiscriminate attacks” on civilians by Russian forces using explosive weapons, the investigation found.
Commission members “were struck by a large number of executions and other violations by Russian forces, and the Commission received consistent accounts of torture and ill-treatment,” Mose noted in his statement.
The commission is continuing to investigate executions in 16 towns and settlements, and has “credible allegations regarding many more cases of executions, which we are documenting further,” Mose added.
Many of the examined bodies showed evidence of “prior detention of the victims, as well as visible signs of executions ... such as hands tied behind backs, gunshot wounds to the head, and slit throats,” the commission found.
The findings have been consistent with reports of war crimes from other international human rights groups, Western governments and Ukrainian authorities.
The U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine earlier this year documented illegal killings — including summary executions of civilians — in more than 30 settlements in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions by Russian armed forces while they controlled these areas in late February and March.
The Independent International Commission headed by Mose also investigated atrocities in the same areas.
Investigators visited 27 towns and settlements and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses, according to the report. They also inspected “sites of destruction, graves, places of detention and torture,” as well as remnants of weapons, said Mose.