A year and a half after it was created, the UN Commission of Independent Experts Investigating the Russo-Ukrainian War is working to establish whether Russian forces have perpetrated three types of abuses in Ukraine that could legally be considered crimes against humanity.
“The Commission mentions the possibility that the Russian Armed Forces have committed crimes against humanity in three types of situations,” one of the three commissioners of this investigative body, the Colombian academic and human rights activist Pablo de Greiff, explained to EFE today. .
The first type of crimes against humanity, which along with genocide are the most serious crimes recognized by international law, could have been committed by Russian troops by “systematically using torture against detained persons, both military as Ukrainian civilians.”
Other actions that the Commission is investigating as possible crimes against humanity are “the thirteen waves” that, starting in October of last year and throughout last fall and winter, Russia launched “against the electrical and thermal infrastructures” of Ukraine.
“The cumulative effects of these attacks on the civilian population may be equivalent to some of the crimes listed as constituting crimes against humanity,” said the Colombian academic from New York University.
The Commission is studying the consequences of being without heat or electricity for days on end due to the deliberate impact on energy infrastructure of Russian missiles and drones on the health and even the lives of millions of Ukrainians when traveling on the streets, receiving medical treatment or earn a living with a professional activity.
A DELIBERATE TERROR
De Greiff and the other two members of the Commission – retired Norwegian judge Erik Møse – have no doubts about the intentionality of the terror inflicted by Russia on the Ukrainian civilian population with this type of bombing.
“There have been statements from (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to the Minister of Defense saying that a wave of large-scale attacks was going to begin,” says the Colombian, who between 2012 and 2018 was the UN special rapporteur for truth. , justice and reparation.
De Greiff recalls that the massive attacks against the Ukrainian electrical and thermal network were repeated on up to “13 different occasions.” “It was easy to determine, after the second, what the effects were going to be on the civilian population, so there is no doubt about either the systematicity or the intentionality,” said the expert.
THE DEVASTATION OF CITIES
The city of Mariupol, taken by the Russians in May 2022, after a siege of almost three months, exemplifies the third category of atrocities that could constitute crimes against humanity.
“The city was systematically attacked practically without respite, under a siege situation in which the civilian population was prevented from leaving and humanitarian aid was prevented from entering,” De Greiff recalled.
The Colombian academic alluded to the difficulties of determining exactly what happened in that port on the Sea of Azov, having not received a response from Russia to the Commission’s requests to visit the Russian Federation or the territories it occupies in Ukraine.
“If all these circumstances can be established, that would constitute a crime against humanity,” said De Greiff, who, along with his colleagues, has found elements to affirm that Russia has perpetrated many violations of international humanitarian law in Ukraine and a large number of war crimes.
THE QUESTION OF GENOCIDE
Ukrainian journalists asked retired Norwegian judge Erik Møse – who, in addition to being one of the three experts who make up the Commission, is its president – if they had found evidence that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine.
Møse explained that to speak of genocide it is necessary, according to the definition of international conventions, that there is an intention to “physically or biologically destroy” a human group in its entirety, something of which the commissioners have found no evidence in Ukraine.
The former Norwegian judge – who was one of the members of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda – did say he was aware of calls for the genocide of Ukrainians in official media and other circles of power in the Russian Federation and stressed that the work of the Commission has not completed and will continue to investigate in this regard as well.