VIENNA (AN) — Russia has clearly violated international humanitarian law and abused human rights during its invasion of Ukraine since late February, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported on Wednesday.
Russia's military attacks on a maternity hospital and theater used for shelter in Mariupol should be considered war crimes, according to Vienna-based OSCE, the world's largest regional security-oriented intergovernmental organization.
OSCE said it found evidence that civilians were targeted for killings, rapes, executions and forcible deportations to Russia, and that Russia's military misused Red Cross symbols on its vehicles to disguise its operations, a violation of international humanitarian law, or IHL.
"It is not conceivable that so many civilians would have been killed and injured and so many civilian objects, including houses, hospitals, cultural property, schools, multi-story residential buildings, administrative buildings, penitentiary institutions, police stations, water stations and electricity systems would have been damaged or destroyed if Russia had respected its IHL obligations in terms of distinction, proportionality and precautions in conducting hostilities in Ukraine," OSCE said in its 108-page report.
"The conduct of the siege of Mariupol is an extreme example," it concluded. "Much of the conduct of Russian forces in parts of Ukraine it occupied before and after 24 February 2022, including through its proxies, the self-proclaimed 'republics' of Donetsk and Luhansk, equally violates IHL of military occupation."
Piercing the 'fog of war'
While the OSCE report said it found violations "on the Ukrainian as well as on the Russian side," it noted those committed by Russia "are by far larger in scale and nature." Three experts were appointed to carry out a three-week investigation starting in mid-March on behalf of OSCE, which includes Ukraine and 56 other nations in Europe, Asia and North America.
U.S. President Joe Biden accused Russia on Tuesday of carrying out a “genocide” in Ukraine. “It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is trying to wipe out the idea of being Ukrainian,” he said. “The evidence is mounting. It looks different than last week. More evidence is coming out literally of the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised Biden's remarks as the “true words of a true leader.” French President Emmanuel Macron, however, stopped short of calling it genocide, saying one must be careful about using such terms among Russians and Ukrainians "because these two peoples are brothers.”
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan called Ukraine a “crime scene” while visiting Bucha to probe Russian atrocities. "We’re here because we have reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC are being committed," he said. "We have to pierce the fog of war to get to the truth."
Last month, Khan said an attack intentionally directed against civilians or civilian facilities, including hospitals, is a crime his office may investigate and prosecute. "Those taking part in these hostilities, whether as regular armed forces, militias, or self-defense groups, must know that in putting on a uniform or by carrying weapons they are not absolved of responsibility but indeed they take on extra legal obligations," he said.