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Russia committed ‘apparent war crimes’, Human Rights Watch says

WARSAW — A leading human rights group says it has documented “apparent war crimes” committed by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians in occupied areas of Ukraine’s Chernihiv, Kharkiv and kyiv regions.

The report, which was released by Human Rights Watch on Sunday, is based on a series of interviews with eyewitnesses, victims and local residents of Russian-occupied territories between February 27 and March 14. He documents in chilling detail numerous law cases. of war, including repeated rapes, two summary murders and other incidents of unlawful violence and threats against civilians.

“The cases we have documented represent unspeakable and deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Rapes, murders and other acts of violence against persons detained by Russian forces must be investigated as war crimes.”

The report’s findings did not include reports of actions in recent weeks in towns like Bucha, northwest of kyiv, where Russian troops have withdrawn in recent days as part of their withdrawal from the capital.

War crimes cases can be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but successful prosecutions would be difficult, experts say.

“It would probably be difficult to prove in court,” said David Scheffer, an international law expert. “The circumstances are not known. Who executed them. Who tied their hands. This would require a very difficult and detailed investigation.

“It’s very different from a military strike on a city,” he said.

Charges can also be brought to the International Court of Justice, but the UN Security Council would be responsible for enforcing any rulings against Russia; as one of the five members of the Security Council, Russia would have a right of veto over any decision.

The Human Rights Watch report comes as global outrage against Moscow intensified on Sunday over allegations that Russian forces executed civilians in Ukraine, and as the withdrawal of Russian troops from the suburbs of Kyiv offered a grim picture of President Vladimir V’s devastating record of Putin’s six-week war.

The brutality of the scenes is reflected in some of the accounts in the report: An eyewitness from the town of Bucha described an execution there in early March, in which Russian soldiers forced five men to kneel on the edge of a road and pulling their shirts over their heads. before shooting one in the neck.

In another case, a 31-year-old woman said she was repeatedly beaten and raped by a Russian soldier at a local school in Kharkiv, where she had taken refuge with her family. “I’m lucky to be alive,” she said.

“The cases we have documented are corroborated by these recent allegations,” said Yulia Gorbunova, the author of the Human Rights Watch report, referring to recent reports circulating from Bucha. “What is emerging now, if confirmed, is quite gruesome and gives an indication of the scale of these atrocities,” she said.

Marlise Simons contributed reporting from Paris.


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