OSCE report says Russia committed ‘war crimes’ in attacks on Mariupol, Ukraine

Russia violated international humanitarian law by deliberately targeting civilians during its invasion of Ukraine, and those who ordered attacks on a maternity ward and theater-turned-safe haven in the besieged city of Mariupol committed war crimes , determined experts from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. an investigative report released Wednesday.

The Vienna-based security body accused Russia of having widely targeting hospitals, schools, residential buildings and water supply facilities in its military operations, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries.

“Taken as a whole, the report documents the catalog of inhumanity perpetrated by Russian forces in Ukraine,” Michael Carpenter, US Ambassador to the OSCE, said in a speech on Wednesday. “This includes evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rapes, executions, looting and forcible deportation of civilians to Russia.”

The report concluded that the airstrike that tore through a maternity ward in Mariupol was a Russian attack. “Based on Russian explanations, the attack must have been deliberate,” the report said of the March 9 assault on the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Mariupol. “No effective warning was given and no deadline was set. This attack therefore constitutes a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and its perpetrators have committed a war crime.

Mariupol beaten in Ukraine, reeling from hospital strike, says Russia’s onslaught continues as bodies pile up

While the Russian government has alleged the hospital was being used for military purposes, Carpenter said, “the mission categorically denied those allegations.” OSCE experts did not visit Ukraine but sifted through evidence from numerous sources, including open-source documents and testimony from human rights and non-profit groups.

The OSCE report also found that the attack on the Mariupol Drama Theatre, where hundreds of civilians had taken refuge as the building was reduced to rubble, “was most likely a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and those who ordered or executed it committed a war crime. .”

Overall, the investigation revealed “clear patterns of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in their conduct of hostilities,” the report said. However, he added that while the report “was able to contribute to an initial collection and analysis of the facts, further investigations are necessary, in particular with regard to the establishment of individual criminal responsibility for war crimes”.

The report traced the alleged abuse from February 24, the day Russia was invaded, to April 1. It did not include a missile strike last week on a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk that killed more than 50 people, including children, or recently reported atrocities in Bucha, a suburb of the capital, kyiv.

The 110-page report also found “credible evidence to suggest that such violations of even the most basic human rights…have been committed, primarily in areas under effective Russian control.”

The OSCE began its investigation last month after a vote by most of its member states, including Ukraine, to pursue a fact-finding mission. The United States is part of the 57-member body – as are Russia and its ally Belarus. Russia and Belarus were among a dozen countries that did not vote for the review and have yet to publicly comment on the report.

The OSCE investigation was triggered by a vote on the “Moscow Mechanism”, named after a conference held in the Russian capital in 1991, which allows member states to send independent experts on missions to a another member state to address issues of “human rights and democracy,” according to the OSCE.

Ukrainian officials said hundreds of civilians were summarily executed at Bucha and had evidence of torture, dismemberment and point-blank shooting. The alleged Bucha events – seen as Ukraine recaptured more territory and Russian forces began to pivot areas near kyiv to the east and south of the country – led to Russia’s suspension of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Russia claimed the murders were “staged” or “fake”.

The OSCE report concluded that the events at Bucha merited “a serious, on-the-spot, international investigation with forensic experts”, and said that “the evidence points to a major war crime and a crime against the humanity committed by Russian forces” in the northwest of the city. from Kyiv.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan on Wednesday called Ukraine a “crime scene” during a visit to Bucha as his team collected evidence.

In Bucha, a massive search for the bodies left by the Russian occupants

“This report is probably just the first in a long series,” UK Ambassador to the OSCE Neil Bush said. “We must, as the international community, hold accountable those responsible for the atrocities that have been committed in Ukraine, including military commanders and other individuals under Putin’s regime.”

The report by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights also indicates that women and children have been particularly affected by Russia’s abuses. The body also noted Ukraine’s role in allegations of abuse and treatment of POWs. “Violations committed by the Russian Federation, however, are far greater in nature and scale,” he said.

President Biden on Tuesday called the killings in Ukraine a sign that Russia was committing “genocide,” a term previously avoided by US officials. He later told reporters that he intentionally used the word in his speech, although he added that he would “let the lawyers decide internationally whether he is eligible or not”. But he said, “It sure seems that way to me.”

President Biden has explained why he called the war in Ukraine “genocide” on April 12. “That sure seems to me,” he said. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: The Washington Post)

The war in Ukraine has been going on for more than seven weeks, with 1,892 dead and 2,558 injured, according to an incomplete UN count. Ukrainian officials said the actual civilian death toll was several thousand higher. About 4.6 million people have fled the country as refugees.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called the war a “tragedy”, but insisted that Russia had “no choice” but to invade its western neighbour. He told reporters that the “special military operation” in Ukraine was proceeding as planned and would continue until its objectives were achieved.

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The Moscow Mechanism has already been used nine times by the OSCE, first in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. It was invoked most recently in Belarus in 2020, when 17 member states called for an investigation into alleged human rights violations in that country.

The United States, Germany, Britain and France were among the member states that invoked the mechanism last month. Earlier in April, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called that Russia be suspended from the OSCE for its “unjustified aggression”.

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