Opening statement: Press conference by the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine following the oral update at the 54th session of the Human Rights Council
25 September 2023
Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine
Press conference – Palais des Nations – 25 September 2023
Erik Møse, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine
Thank you for joining us today. Together with the other two Commissioners, I would like to brief you on the Commission’s work since its second mandate from April last year.
This press conference follows the presentation of our oral update to the Human Rights Council. The update reflects the Commission’s ongoing investigations during its second mandate. It should be seen as a continuation of its previous reports, including its 170-page conference room paper released last month.
The Commission has now visited Ukraine more than ten times, and recently the three Commissioners undertook a one-week trip to Ukraine that concluded on 4 September. At this stage of its work, the Commission is undertaking more in-depth investigations regarding unlawful attacks with explosive weapons, attacks affecting civilians, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and attacks on energy infrastructure. This may also clarify whether torture or attacks on energy infrastructure amount to crimes against humanity.
The Commission, deeply concerned at the scale and gravity of violations and the continuous evidence of crimes committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, emphasizes the need for accountability.
Vrinda Grover, Member of the Commission
In recent months, the Commission has documented explosive weapons attacks affecting residential buildings, a railway station, a functional medical facility, a restaurant, shops and commercial warehouses. In most cases, there seemed to not have been any military presence at the affected sites or in their vicinity.
Attacks with explosive weapons in populated areas has led to extensive destruction and damage and have been the leading cause of deaths and injuries among the civilian population.
In Uman, Cherkasy region, we met with survivors of an attack on a multi-storey block of residential apartments hit in April 2023, rendering part of the building uninhabitable and causing the death of 24 civilians, mostly women and children.
We deplore that attacks by Russian armed forces, harming civilians and medical facilities, which have protected status, continue to take place. The Commission also deplores the fact that conflict-related sexual violence continue to take place in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights.
Pablo de Greiff, Commissioner of Inquiry on Ukraine
Well into the second year of the armed conflict, people in Ukraine have been continuing to cope with the loss and injury of loved ones, large-scale destruction, suffering and trauma as well as economic hardship that have resulted from it.
The Commission is committed to a victim-centred perspective in its work and recognizes the importance of making recommendations regarding accountability.
Criminal accountability is important, and so, we reiterate the need for coordination and the avoidance of duplication between the various actors in this field. We also call on the Ukrainian authorities to expeditiously investigate the few cases of violations by its own forces.
Other forms of accountability, including those that enhance the possibility that victims will be able to reconstruct their lives are also important.
We continue to insist on the importance of providing mental health and psychosocial support to victims. We are aware of the progress made in the establishment of a registry of damages. The Commission urges the international community to make sure that national reconstruction programmes or property restitution programmes are not designed to the detriment of victims’ reparations.