In the articles of some media about the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Ukraine, the cases of war crimes committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine were completely omitted, and only the cases committed by Ukraine were presented.
On October 18, 2022, the web portal Sputnik Serbia published an article featuring the following title:
UN court: Ukrainian army committed war crimes against Russian prisoners of war
The article highlights the findings from the report of the commission formed by the alleged United Nations Human Rights Court, according to which Ukrainian soldiers committed at least two war crimes in two Ukrainian regions:
Ukrainian soldiers committed at least two war crimes when they shot and tortured Russian prisoners of war in the Kharkiv and Kyiv regions in March 2022, according to the Commission of the United Nations Human Rights Court report after the investigation conducted in Ukraine.
The text presents two cases in which, according to the report, the Ukrainian army committed war crimes against military prisoners.
In the first case, in Mala Rogan in Kharkiv region, from March 24 to 26, 2022, Ukrainian soldiers deliberately shot the legs of three captured Russian soldiers from a short distance. They beat one of them with a rifle during interrogation.
In another case, on March 29, 2022, near Dmitrovka in the Kyiv region, a Ukrainian soldier shot from a short distance and wounded an already wounded soldier of the Armed Forces of Russia. The case of a Russian soldier who had his hands tied behind his back and an obvious wound on his head was also mentioned, which leads to the conclusion that he was most likely killed.
Other details from the Commission’s report were not mentioned in the text.
Identical articles were published by RTRS, Alternativna TV, B92, IN4S and other web portals.
What are the facts?
First, the United Nations Court of Human Rights does not exist.
United Nations Human Rights Council
There is a Human Rights Council within the UN institutions, but it does not have the authority of a court (like, for example, the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of Europe – link).
The Human Rights Council (link), which consists of 47 UN member states elected by the General Assembly, reviews the situation regarding the state of human rights in the member states. As part of the Council, national reports on human rights are evaluated, and recommendations are made to the states (through the Universal periodic review process – link).
The Council has established a complaint procedure (Complaint procedure – link) through which individuals, groups or non-governmental organizations can claim that they are victims of human rights violations. However, this procedure does not mean that the Council can pass any “judgment” that binds the member state on any basis.
The report, the findings of which are selectively presented in the Sputnik article, was published on October 18, 2022, and was devised by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Ukraine, established by Resolution 49/1 of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
It does indeed list the mentioned cases that the Commission characterised as war crimes committed by Ukrainian forces. They are described in paragraph 87 of the report, in the chapter “Torture, abuse and wounding of protected people”.
However, in the mentioned articles, reports on significantly more crimes that were found to have been committed by the Russian army were omitted. Moreover, at the very beginning of the report, it was pointed out that the Russian armed forces are responsible for the vast majority of documented war crimes committed in Ukraine since February 24:
During this first phase of its investigations, the Commission established that war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed in Ukraine since February 24, 2022. The Russian armed forces are responsible for the vast majority of identified violations.
In the chapter “Torture, abuse and wounding of protected people”, parts of which were used by Sputnik, the cases of torture, abuse and wounding of protected people committed by the Russian side are also described. Nothing was said about this in the mentioned articles:
The Commission has documented many cases of torture and ill-treatment committed by the Russian armed forces, which constitute a violation of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and a war crime.
Perpetrators targeted local authorities or local government employees, veterans of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and volunteers who assist the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They also targeted individuals who evacuated civilians. Torture and ill-treatment occurred during illegal imprisonment in detention facilities in Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The victims were mostly men, but there were also women among them.
Regarding war crimes, paragraphs 56-59 of the report describe examples in which Russian armed forces shot at civilians, including those who were trying to escape to safety and obtain food or other necessities.
The report also stated that human rights and international humanitarian law against the personal integrity of people were violated in the territories occupied by the Russian armed forces, which also constitutes a war crime.
Cases of summary killings committed by the Russian armed forces are described in paragraphs 65-74 of the report; cases of illegal imprisonment, imprisonment in inhumane conditions and forced deportation are described in paragraphs 75-80, and cases of sexual violence are described in paragraphs 88-98.
Unfortunately, the victims of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine were also children, as documented in paragraphs 99-108 of the report.
The Ukrainian fact-checking web portal StopFake was also engaged in the analysis of articles in which the details of the Independent International Commission report were equally selective.
Omitting details of war crimes committed by the Russian armed forces creates the impression that the Independent Investigative Commission for Ukraine found only war crimes committed by the Ukrainian army – which is clearly not the case.
According to the facts, we evaluate the articles published by Sputnik Serbia and other media as biased reporting and manipulation of facts.
(Authors: Amar Karađuz and Emir Zulejhić, Raskrinkavanje.ba)