Russian policy of transferring Ukrainian children is a war crime, says UN | War in Ukraine

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Russian policy of transferring Ukrainian children a war crime, UN says | War in Ukraine

A woman cries as she holds a young child in her arms after arriving from a territory occupied by Russia in a registration and processing area for displaced persons in Zaporizhia, Ukraine, May 2, 2022. (File photo)

Russia's transfer of Ukrainian children to areas under its control in Ukraine as well as to its own territory constitutes a “war crime”, a group of UN investigators said Thursday. which also points to possible crimes against humanity.

Regarding the accusations of genocide, the group of investigators did not find it, told the journalists Erik Mose, one of the three commissioners in charge of the investigations, stressing however that certain aspects can raise questions concerning this crime.

We will continue these investigations if our mandate is extended at the beginning of April by the Human Rights Council, he promised, on the occasion of the publication of the first report of the group he chairs.

In this document, the Commission of Inquiry concludes that the situations it examined concerning the transfer and deportation of children, inside Ukraine and to the Russian Federation of Russia respectively, violate international humanitarian law and constitute a war crime.

According to Kyiv, 16,221 children were deported to Russia until the end of February, figures the Commission could not verify. But she points to the legal and policy measures taken by Russian officials regarding the transfer of Ukrainian children, and the presidential decree in May 2022 making it easier to grant Russian citizenship to certain children.

Evacuated from Bakhmout, Yelena Vyacheslavskaya, 35, and her daughter Kira took refuge in a temporary accommodation center in the Donetsk region.

Reacting to the report, German Ambassador to Geneva Katharina Stasch called the Russian crimes heinous: That is why we want to explicitly include the child abduction investigation in the new mandate of the commission of inquiry.

The Commission also found that the waves of attacks carried out by the Russian armed forces from 10 October 2022 against Ukraine's energy infrastructure and the use torture by Russian authorities could constitute crimes against humanity, Mose said.

Investigators were able to identify a pattern of widespread illegal detention in areas controlled by the Russian armed forces, targeting many people, including women and children. In some centers, some people are systematically tortured.

The Commission also tried to verify whether the bombardment and siege of Mariupol, in the south-east of Ukraine, could constitute a crime against humanity. She concluded that she lacked elements to reach such a conclusion, not having had access to the Donetsk region, where Mariupol is located, a port city besieged for months by the Russian army before falling in May 2022.

The Commission has so far visited 56 localities and interviewed 348 women and 247 men. Its investigators have notably inspected destroyed sites and places of burials and torture.

Last September, the investigators had explained to the press that it was then too early to speak of crimes against humanity, contrary to what NGOs and Ukraine were already claiming.

They had instead accused Russian forces of committing a massive number of war crimes in four Ukrainian regions in the first weeks of the invasion.

The body of evidence they have since collected shows, they say, that Russian forces have committed a wide range of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, also known as the law of war.

Many of these constitute war crimes and include willful killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape, forcible transfer and deportations of children.

Furthermore, Commissioner Jasminka Dzumhur stressed, Russia's annexation of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhia regions is illegal under international law.

The Commission also indicates that it has identified a small number of violations committed by the Ukrainian armed forces, in particular two incidents qualified as war crimes, during which Russian prisoners of war were shot, wounded and tortured.

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