The Vienna-based security body accused Russia too broadly targeting hospitals, schools, residential buildings and water facilities in its military operations, leading to civilian deaths and injuries.
“As a whole, the report documents the catalog of inhumanity committed by Russia’s forces in Ukraine,” Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the OSCE, said in a speech on Wednesday. “This includes evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rape, executions, looting and forced deportation of civilians to Russia.”
The report concluded that the airstrike that tore through a maternity hospital in Mariupol was a Russian attack. “Based on Russian explanations, the attack must have been deliberate,” the report of the March 9 attack on Mariupol Maternity House and Children’s Hospital said. “No effective warning and no time limit was given. This attack therefore constitutes a clear violation of international humanitarian law, and those responsible for it have committed a war crime.”
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While the Russian government claimed that the hospital was being used for military purposes, Carpenter said, “the mission categorically rejected these allegations.” OSCE experts did not travel to Ukraine, but sorted through evidence from several sources, including open source material and reports from human rights and non-profit groups.
The OSCE report also found that the attack on the Mariupol Drama Theater, in which hundreds of civilians sought refuge when the building was reduced to rubble, “was most likely a gross violation of international humanitarian law, and those who ordered or executed it committed a war crime. “
Overall, the study found “clear patterns of violations of international humanitarian law from the Russian forces’ conduct of hostilities,” the report said. But it added that although the report “was able to contribute to an initial collection and analysis of facts, more detailed investigations are needed, particularly with regard to establishing individual criminal liability for war crimes.”
The report traced alleged abuses from February 24, the day Russia invaded, to April 1. It did not include a missile strike last week at a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk that killed more than 50 people, including children, or atrocities recently. reported in Bucha, a suburb of the capital Kiev.
The 110-page report also found “credible evidence to suggest that such violations of even the most fundamental human rights … have been committed, mostly in areas under the effective control of Russia.”
The OSCE began its inquiry last month following a vote by most of its member states, including Ukraine, to pursue an inquiry mission. The United States is part of the 57-member body – so is Russia and its ally, Belarus. Russia and Belarus were among a dozen countries that did not vote for the report and have not yet publicly commented on the report.
The OSCE survey was triggered by a vote on the “Moscow mechanism”, named after a conference in the Russian capital in 1991, which allows member states to send independent experts on missions to another member state to resolve issues of “human rights and democracy”. “. ”According to the OSCE.
Ukrainian officials have said hundreds of civilians were executed in Bucha and that they had evidence of torture, mutilation and shooting of people at close range. The alleged events in Bucha – found as Ukraine recaptured more territory and Russia’s forces began to turn from areas near Kiev to the east and south of the country – led to Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council. Russia has claimed that such killings were “staged” or “fake”.
The OSCE report found that the events in Bucha deserved “a serious international investigation, on the spot, with forensic experts,” and said “evidence points to a major war crime and a crime against humanity committed by the Russian forces” in the northwestern city. of Kiev.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan called Ukraine a “crime scene” on Wednesday during a visit to Bucha as his team gathered evidence.
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“This report is just the first of probably many,” said OSCE Ambassador to the United Kingdom Neil Bush. “We, as an international community, must hold those responsible for the atrocities committed in Ukraine accountable, including military leaders and other figures in the Putin regime.”
The report from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights also said that women and children have been particularly hard hit by Russia’s abuses. The body also noted Ukraine’s role in allegations of abuse and treatment of prisoners of war. “However, the violations committed by the Russian Federation are far greater in nature and extent,” it said.
President Biden on Tuesday described the killings in Ukraine as a sign that Russia was committing “genocide,” a term previously avoided by U.S. officials. He later told reporters that he deliberately used the word in his speech, though he added that he would “let the lawyers decide internationally whether it is qualified or not.” But he said, “It certainly seems that way to me.”
The war in Ukraine has lasted for more than seven weeks, with 1,892 people killed and 2,558 wounded, according to an incomplete UN census. Ukrainian officials have said the real death toll for civilians is many thousands 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 Russia had “no choice” but to invade its western neighbor. He told reporters that the “special military operation” in Ukraine proceeded as planned and would continue until its objectives were reached.
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The Moscow mechanism has been used nine times before by the OSCE, first in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992. It was most recently invoked in Belarus in 2020, when 17 member states called for an investigation into alleged human rights violations there.
The United States, Germany, Britain and France were among the member states that relied on the mechanism last month. Earlier in April, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said called Russia must be suspended from the OSCE because of its “unjust aggression”.