OSZE ODIHR: Report on Violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Committed in Ukraine

Executive Summary

On 2 June 2022, the Delegations of 45 OSCE Participating States, after consultations with Ukraine, invoked the OSCE Moscow Mechanism under paragraph 8 of the Moscow Document to “consider, follow up and build upon the findings of the Moscow Mechanism report received by OSCE participating States on 12 April 2022” addressing “the human rights and humanitarian impacts of the Russian Federation’s invasion and acts of war, supported by Belarus, on the people of Ukraine, within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and territorial waters”. In accordance with the Moscow Document, Ukraine subsequently selected three persons from the list of experts to be part of an expert mission. These three persons are: Ms Veronika Bílková (Czech Republic), Ms Laura Guercio (Italy) and Ms Vasilka Sancin (Slovenia). The mission of experts was officially established on 7 June 2022.

The current mission of experts is the second one established to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law committed in the territory of Ukraine during the armed conflict triggered by the act of full-fledged aggression carried out by the Russian Federation against Ukraine on 24 February 2022. The first mission was established on 15 March 2022. In its report, submitted on 5 April 2022 and made public on 13 April 2022, the mission covered the period from 24 February until 1 April 2022. The period under scrutiny in the second report is 1 April – 25 June 2022, though occasionally, violations committed prior to 1 April 2022 but which were not reported in the first report, because information about them only became available after this date, are also included in this report.

In the preparation of this report, the mission of experts used several main methods of fact-finding, relying on various sources of information. First, it built on the data contained in the first report on Ukraine produced under the OSCE Moscow Mechanism in April 2022, as well as on other reports, comments and statements produced by international organizations (UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, EU), States, NGOs, and media. Secondly, the mission conducted various interviews, both online and in person. Thirdly, on 20-23 June 2022, two members of the expert mission, Ms Bilkova and Ms Guercio, travelled to Ukraine. During the stay in Kyiv, they met with representatives of various Ukrainian authorities. They also visited the towns of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel. The visit to Ukraine allowed the mission to collect essential direct information, vital for the drafting of this report, as well as confirmation of information learned from other sources. Through all the different methods of fact-finding, the mission was able to get access to a large amount and variety of evidence and to gain a good oversight of the situation in general and of particular issues under scrutiny.

The second mission has largely confirmed the conclusions reached by the first mission. It has discovered clear patterns of serious violations of IHL attributable mostly to Russian armed forces in many areas which its investigations referred to. A considerable number of civilians have been killed or injured, and civilian objects – like civilian houses, hospitals, cultural property, schools, multi-story residential buildings, administrative buildings, penitentiary institutions, water stations and electricity systems – have been damaged or destroyed in numerous towns and villages. The magnitude and frequency of the indiscriminate attacks carried out against civilians and civilian objects, including in sites where no military facility was identified, is credible evidence that hostilities were conducted by Russian armed forces with disregard to their fundamental obligation to comply with the basic principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that constitute the fundamental basis of IHL.

The signs of torture and ill-treatment on the corpses of killed civilians also show disregard of the principle of humanity that should guide the application of IHL in military operations. The events concerning the towns of Bucha and Irpin, which were visited by the mission, are two emblematic examples of these grave breaches of IHL under the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, which constitute war crimes. There is information that all the violations that the mission was able to ascertain are, or will be, under investigation and the responsible persons, if identified and arrested, under prosecution by the relevant national or international judicial authorities.

The second mission has concluded that international human rights law (IHRL) has been extensively violated in the conflict in Ukraine. Some of the most serious violations include targeted killing of civilians, including journalists, human rights defenders, or local mayors; unlawful detentions, abductions and enforced disappearances of such persons; large-scale deportations of Ukrainian civilians to Russia; various forms of mistreatment, including torture, inflicted on detained civilians and prisoners of war; the failure to respect fair trial guarantees; and the imposition of the death penalty. Most, albeit not all, violations have been committed in the territories under the effective control of the Russian Federation, including the territories of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and are largely attributable to the Russian Federation. The mission has identified two new alarming phenomena which were not included or paid sufficient attention in the first report, namely the establishment and use of so-called filtration centres and the tendency by the Russian Federation to bypass its international obligations by handing detained persons over to the two so-called People’s Republics and letting them engage in problematic practices, including the imposition of the death penalty.

The second mission has also confirmed that the current conflict in Ukraine has had a very negative impact on the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights, such as the right to education, the right to health, the right to social security, the right to food and water, and the right to a healthy environment. This impact is not limited to instances when these rights have been directly violated but results from the overall state of destruction and disruption of the provision of vital services (education, healthcare, food production, etc.) in the country as well. The mission would moreover like to stress that particular attention has to be paid to individuals belonging to vulnerable groups, such as women, children, older persons, or persons with disabilities. All violations of IHRL entail the responsibility of the relevant State. The most serious among them, moreover, may give rise to individual criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The second mission shares the doubts expressed by the first mission as to whether the Russian attack on Ukraine per se could qualify as a “widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population”, which provides the context for crimes against humanity. Yet, it fully upholds the conclusion that some patterns of violent acts violating IHRL, which have been repeatedly documented during the conflict, such as targeted killing, enforced disappearance or abductions of civilians, meet this qualification and that any single violent act of this type, committed as part of such an attack and with the knowledge of it, constitutes a crime against humanity. The second mission also notes that such patterns have become more evident in the period under scrutiny in this report.

Quelle: Der gesamte 119-seitige Bericht ist abrufbar unter https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/3/e/522616.pdf.

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Russlands Aggression in der Ukraine: die Dokumentation der aus dem Konflikt resultierenden Verbrechen

Von Kateryna Busol, Dmytro Koval
Der folgende Artikel zeichnet die Entwicklung der Bemühungen von Nichtregierungsorganisationen (NGOs) und dem ukrainischen Staat nach, konfliktbezogene Verbrechen auf dem Gebiet der Ukraine, die im Zusammenhang mit der russischen Aggression seit 2014 begangen wurden, zu dokumentieren. Der Beitrag analysiert weiterhin, wie die Erfahrungen von 2014 bis 2021 die Dokumentation von Kriegs- und Menschenrechtsverbrechen seit der russischen Invasion im Februar 2022 beeinflusst haben.
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