A UN investigation concludes that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine concluded after visiting the country in June.
"We were struck by a large number of executions and other violations by Russian forces, and the Commission received consistent accounts of torture and ill-treatment," they said in presenting their report to the Human Rights Council.
The three members of the Commission, set up in March this year at the request of the Human Rights body's member states, visited the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy, where the most serious allegations against Russian or Russian-backed forces occurred at the beginning of the war.
Commission chairman Erik Møse said investigators visited 27 towns and settlements and interviewed more than 150 victims and witnesses. They also inspected "destroyed sites, graves, detention and torture centres", as well as weapons remains.
"On the basis of the evidence gathered so far during the existence of the Commission, having conducted investigations in these four areas that we have just mentioned, we find that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine," he told reporters in Geneva.
This finding is in line with those published earlier this year by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU).
It documented unlawful killings - including summary executions of civilians - in more than 30 settlements in the Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions by Russian armed forces while in control of these areas in late February and March.
#HRC51 | "War crimes have been committed in #Ukraine," the Independent International Commission of Inquiry told the @UN Human Rights Council.— UN Human Rights Council 📍 #HRC51 (@UN_HRC) September 23, 2022
Full STATEMENT ➡️ https://t.co/A2hMpLf7kT pic.twitter.com/gmwRe315X9
Other key findings of the report include the shockingly "large number of executions" in 16 towns and settlements, where the "common elements" of the crimes included "visible signs of executions on the bodies, such as hands tied behind the back, bullet wounds to the head and throats cut".
The report, delivered to the Human Rights Council early on Friday, also documented how Russian Federation forces used explosive weapons, "without distinguishing between civilians and combatants in populated areas".
Sexual violence, including against children
In addition, horrific allegations of sexual violence against Ukrainian communities - including children - were found to be based in fact.
"The Commission investigated cases of sexual gender-based violence. It documented cases where some soldiers of the Russian Federation committed such crimes," said Commissioner Jasminka Džumhur.
Ukrainian forces were also responsible for human rights violations, said Commissioner Pablo de Greiff: "We have found two cases of ill-treatment of Russian Federation soldiers by Ukrainian soldiers, and we mentioned this in our statement. Obviously, we have found a significantly larger number of cases amounting to war crimes by the Russian Federation".