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Statement by Erik Møse, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, to the General Assembly Third Committee, New York

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25 October 2023
Delivered by:

Mr. Chair,

Excellencies,

This is the first time the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine makes an oral statement before the Third Committee. Last October, our first report to the General Assembly was submitted without an interactive dialogue. We welcome this opportunity.

In its previous reports, the Commission has found that Russian authorities have committed a wide range of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in many regions of Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. Many of those amount to war crimes. In addition, the Commission found that the waves of attacks on Ukraine’s energy related infrastructure since 10 October 2022, as well as the widespread and systematic use of torture by Russian authorities, may amount to crimes against humanity, subject to further investigations.

The evidence collected in our latest report from last week shows that Russian authorities have continued to commit a large number of war crimes in Ukraine. They include torture, wilful killings, rape and other sexual violence, as well as the deportation of children. Russian armed forces have also carried out indiscriminate attacks with explosive weapons in violation of international humanitarian law.

In its previous reports, the Commission also documented a small number of violations committed by Ukrainian armed forces, including likely indiscriminate attacks, and two incidents that qualify as war crimes. In the recent report, we found three cases in which Ukrainian authorities committed human rights violations against persons they accused of collaboration with Russian authorities.

The Commission’s mandate requires us to investigate all allegations of violations and crimes. Given the multitude of events, among other factors, the cases outlined in our reports illustrate key patterns of violations and crimes.

A major challenge in our investigations of certain situations has been the lack of access to areas occupied by Russian authorities. Our written requests and other efforts to reach out to the Russian Federation have remained unanswered. 

The Commission appreciates the cooperation of the Government of Ukraine. Moreover, we extend our gratitude to all those – witnesses and organizations – that shared information and provided us with assistance.

Mr. Chair,

Excellencies,

The Commission is deeply concerned by the geographical spread, frequency, and gravity of certain patterns of crimes and violations by the Russian authorities. These violations and crimes have both immediate and long-lasting effects on the population. They cause loss of lives and injuries, psychosocial trauma, and immense suffering and hardship.

The latest report continues to examine attacks with explosive weapons affecting numerous civilians and a wide range of civilian objects. During our last visit to Ukraine, we met with survivors of a missile attack by the Russian armed forces, which hit a residential building in Uman city, Cherkasy region, on 28 April 2023. The strike led to the death of 24 civilians, mainly women and children, and left many injured. This is another instance of large-scale devastation of populated areas that the Commission has described previously. Survivors described their deep pain and trauma after the loss of beloved family members and homes.

During both its first and second mandates, the Commission has interviewed numerous persons who were tortured by Russian authorities in detention facilities in seven regions of Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. Particularly striking was the recurrent use of electric shocks, as a method of torture, with the aim of extracting information from the victims. The evidence collected overall has led the Commission to conclude that the use of torture by the Russian authorities has been widespread and systematic.

The Commission has investigated cases of rape and sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers as they broke into houses in villages where they were deployed. According to our recent report, rape victims ranged from a 16-year-old pregnant girl to women up to 83 years of age. Some of the victims were also subjected to other forms of humiliation. Furthermore, perpetrators committed additional war crimes against the victims and their family members, such as wilful killing and torture.

The armed conflict affects children deeply. The Commission continues to be concerned about the deportation of children to the Russian Federation. Recently, it concluded that the deportation of 31 children in an incident in May 2022 amounts to a war crime. The Commission recommends the expeditious return of all children transferred from Ukraine to the Russian Federation.

Mr. Chair,

Excellencies,

The armed conflict in Ukraine has taken a devastating toll on civilians, compelling millions to flee and causing thousands of casualties. Violations and crimes have further aggravated the situation of those particularly vulnerable.

Thorough investigations and accountability for all violations and crimes are paramount. We emphasise the importance of both judicial and non-judicial accountability, as well as of measures that support the needs expressed by victims.

Thank you.

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