The OSCE report finds “clear patterns” of Russian forces’ violations of international humanitarian law

The report says it has found “credible evidence” suggesting violations of “even the most fundamental human rights (the right to life, the prohibition of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment) have been committed, mostly in areas below effective control of Russia or entities under overall control of Russia. “

In an OSCE statement on Wednesday, US Ambassador Michael Carpenter said that “overall, the report documents the catalog of inhumanity committed by Russia’s forces in Ukraine.”

“The report is powerful enough to document the extent of the Russian government’s cruelty,” Carpenter said.

The 110-page report describes reports of targeted killings, torture, rape and forced disappearances.

An OSCE investigation mission “received several reports, sometimes accompanied by photographic evidence alleging Russian troops’ use of the Red Cross emblem to mark military non-medical vehicles, of Ukrainian flags, army or police uniforms or vehicles, white flags, civilian clothing and OSCE symbols to facilitate their military operations, ”it says.

It includes reports of a Ukrainian interpreter being “held captive for nine days” by Russian forces. Left in an ice-cold cellar, he was repeatedly beaten with an iron bar and rifle butts, tortured with electricity, deprived of food for 48 hours and subjected to a false execution.

For many of the incidents, the report says they would constitute war crimes, but does not fully declare them as such. Regarding the attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol, however, it says: “This attack therefore constitutes a clear violation of (international humanitarian law), and those responsible for it have committed a war crime.”

“While it may be that a hospital was used by the defender for military purposes or destroyed by mistake, it is hardly possible that this is the case when 50 hospitals are destroyed,” the report said.

‘Not conceivable’

The report was the result of a three-week investigation mission by the three OSCE experts and covers the period from the start of the war on 24 February to 1 April. The report notes that the experts faced a number of constraints – time and resource constraints, lack of access to Ukraine – so “a detailed assessment of most allegations of violations of the IHL and identification of war crimes and crimes against humanity regarding special incidents has not been possible. “

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But “it is not conceivable that so many civilians would have been killed and injured and so many civilian objects, including houses, hospitals, cultural properties, schools, apartment buildings, administrative buildings, penitentiary institutions, police stations, water stations and electricity systems would have been damaged or destroyed. , if Russia had respected its (international humanitarian law) obligations regarding distinction, proportionality and precautions in carrying out hostilities in Ukraine, “it notes.

The report did not cover the period when developments such as the atrocities in Bucha came to light, as it says “requires serious national and international investigations on the spot with forensic experts.” It states that “if such killings are confirmed, they will constitute serious violations of (international humanitarian law) and war crimes.”

The report says that “violations took place on both the Ukrainian and Russian sides.”

“However, the violations committed by the Russian Federation are far greater in nature and extent,” it adds. Most of the reported violations from Ukraine are related to the treatment of Russian soldiers.

The report also notes that Russia, which is a member of the OSCE, did not participate in the investigation mission.

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“The Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation informed the mission upon request that it considered the Moscow mechanism to be largely obsolete and redundant. The Permanent Representation also refused to appoint a liaison officer, but referred the mission to the official statements and briefings of the Russian Government Federation, “which made it impossible for the mission to take into account the Russian stance on all relevant incidents except based on official open sources and websites,” the report said.

The fact-finding mission used to produce the report was launched after 45 countries triggered the rarely-used Moscow mechanism. It is a serious step, and according to the OSCE, it has only been triggered nine other times since its inception in 1991. It was most recently used in 2020 to investigate human rights violations in Belarus.

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