U.N.-Backed Inquiry Finds Russia Committed War Crimes

March 16, 2023

The United Nations-backed Human Rights Council has accused Russia of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity in Ukraine, including systematic torture and killing in occupied regions.

The sweeping U.N.-backed report was released on Thursday—exactly one year after a Russian airstrike in Mariupol killed at least 600 people sheltering inside a theater. By April Mariupol had descended into a “humanitarian catastrophe,” a foreign affairs expert told Political IQ at the time.

There were no humanitarian corridors to allow Mariupol civilian safe passage out of the war zone; and in previous weeks, Russia had opened fire upon Ukrainian civilians in these supposedly safe passages. 

Potential crimes against humanity that Russia may have committed, according to the report, include repeated attacks against infrastructure that knocked out power, including heat and electricity, to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians this past winter.

A commission of inquiry is the Human Rights Council’s most powerful tool for investigating abuses and violations around the world. The inquiry into Russia’s abuses in Ukraine was set up shortly after Russia invaded its sovereign neighbor in February 2022. The investigating commission consisted of three independent human rights experts and supporting staff; their funding came from the Human Rights Council and the U.N.

The report does note a “small number” of apparent violations by Ukrainian forces, including one they said was under investigation by Ukrainian authorities. However, the vast majority of the report details allegations of abuses by Russia.

Russia did not respond to any of the commission’s requests for information. 

The report may potentially add to efforts to hold Russia accountable for crimes committed in Ukraine, either by the International Criminal Court or by a number of individual countries which have taken on the right to apply “universal jurisdiction” to prosecute atrocities anywhere in the world. 

PHOTO: Children’s and Maternity Hospital in Mariupol, March 9, 2022 

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