In Ukraine, Human Rights Watch documents “apparent war crimes”

A body on the E40 highway from Kyiv to Zhitomyr, Ukraine, April 2, 2022.

Summary executions, rapes, looting, violence and threats against civilians. In a report published on Sunday April 3, Human Rights Watch (HRW) documents several cases of “apparent war crimes” committed by the Russians in the areas of Chernihiv, Kharkiv and kyiv, in Ukraine. “The cases we have documented testify to unspeakable and deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians, said Hugh Williamson, director of the human rights organization’s Europe and Central Asia division. Rapes, murders and other acts of violence against persons detained by Russian forces should be investigated as war crimes. »

On March 4, in Boutcha, the Russian forces thus “apprehended five men and summarily executed one of them”, according to a testimony collected by the NGO. The soldiers forced the five men to kneel on the side of the road, covered their heads with their T-shirts and shot one in the back of the head, said this witness.

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Other summary executions were committed on February 27, in the village of Staryi Bykiv, in the Chernihiv region, according to the mother of one of the victims. The Russians apprehended six men and executed them, the woman testified. She was nearby when her son and another man were seized, and saw the bodies of six victims.

Human Rights Watch collected accounts from ten people in all, “including witnesses, victims and residents of Russian-occupied territories, in person or by telephone.” Many wished to respond on condition of anonymity, for security reasons.

Repeated rapes

Further violence against civilians has been documented in the village of Vorzel, about 50 kilometers northwest of kyiv. On March 6, Russian soldiers threw a smoke grenade into a basement where several people had taken refuge. “When panicked people tried to flee the basement, soldiers opened fire, hitting a woman and a 14-year-old boy”, said a witness. The boy was killed instantly. A woman was injured. She died the day after.

The Russians also seem to use another weapon of war: rape. A woman testified to having been raped by a Russian soldier several times in a school in the Kharkiv region where she had taken refuge with her family on March 13. She said she was beaten and slashed in the face and neck with a knife. She was able to flee the next day and took refuge in Kharkiv, where she was able to receive treatment. The human rights NGO was able to see his facial injuries in two photographs sent by the victim.

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