(Warsaw, April 3, 2022) – In Ukraine, Human Rights Watch documented several instances of violations of the laws of war by the Russian armed forces against civilians in the occupied territories of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv. These incidents include repeated rapes; summary executions of six people in one case and another in a separate case; as well as other cases of illegal violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022. Russian military personnel were also involved in the looting of civilian property, including food, clothing and firewood. Those responsible for these abuses are responsible for war crimes.
” The cases we have documented testify to the unthinkable and deliberate brutality and violence against civilians in Ukraine. said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. ” Rape, murder and other acts of violence against persons detained by Russian troops should be investigated as war crimes. »
Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 people in person or by phone, including witnesses, victims, and residents of Russian-occupied territories. Some people asked to be referred to only by their first names or pseudonyms for their protection.
On March 4, Russian troops in Bucha, about 30 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, detained five men and executed one of them. A witness told Human Rights Watch that soldiers forced five men to kneel on the side of the road, covered their heads with T-shirts, and shot one of them in the back of the head. ” He [s’est effondré] “, said the witness, and women [présentes sur les lieux] shouted “.
According to the mother of one of the victims, on February 27, Russian forces stationed in the village of Staryi Bykov, Chernihiv region, captured at least six people and then executed them. She was there when her son and another man were detained and saw the bodies of six victims.
A 60-year-old man told Human Rights Watch that on March 4, a Russian soldier threatened to shoot him and his son in the village of Zabuchie, northwest of Kyiv. This soldier and others searched their house and found a shotgun and gasoline in the garden. According to the man, another soldier intervened to prevent these summary executions. Her daughter confirmed her version in a separate interview.
On March 6, Russian troops in the village of Vorzel, about 50 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, threw a smoke bomb into a basement where several people were hiding. When the panicked people tried to flee from the basement, the soldiers opened fire, wounding a woman and a 14-year-old boy. On March 7, a Ukrainian man also took refuge in this basement, who saw a wounded woman there; she died the next day, 8 March. The man told Human Rights Watch that, according to information provided to him by others, the teenager was killed immediately.
A woman told Human Rights Watch that a Russian soldier repeatedly raped her at a school in the Kharkiv region, where she and her family had taken refuge on March 13. She claimed that she had been beaten and stabbed across her face and neck. The next day, she was able to escape and took refuge in Kharkiv, where she was able to receive treatment and other services. Human Rights Watch was able to review two photographs she shared that showed facial injuries.
Several Ukrainian civilians interviewed by Human Rights Watch said Russian forces engaged in looting, including food, firewood, clothing, and other items such as chainsaws, axes, and gasoline.
All parties to the armed conflict in Ukraine are bound by international humanitarian law or the laws of war, in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, as well as customary international law. Warring armed forces effectively in control of territory are subject to the international law of military occupation. International human rights law also applies at all times.
The laws of war prohibit willful killing, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and inhuman treatment of captured combatants and civilians in custody. Looting and looting is also prohibited. Anyone who orders or deliberately commits such acts, or aids and incites them, is liable for war crimes. Commanders who knew or should have known about these crimes, but did not try to stop them or punish those responsible, are criminally liable for war crimes in accordance with the doctrine of military command responsibility.
” Russia has an international legal obligation to impartially investigate alleged war crimes committed by its soldiers. concluded Hugh Williamson. ” Senior officers should be aware that failure to take action against murder and rape may result in them being personally responsible for war crimes under command responsibility. »
Continued in English with more details:
(Full French translation coming soon on this page)