Apr 13, 2022 - World

Russia violated international law and abused human rights, regional security organization says

Picture of a burned school classroom
A damaged school after Russian shelling in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on March 29. Photo: Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russia abused human rights and violated international humanitarian law in its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, according to a report the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released Wednesday.

Driving the news: "Taken as a whole, the report documents the catalog of inhumanity perpetrated by Russia’s forces in Ukraine," Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, said.  "This includes evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rape, executions, looting, and forced deportation of civilians to Russia."

Details: OSCE "has found credible evidence suggesting that such violations concerning even the most fundamental human rights ... have been committed, mostly in the areas under the effective control of Russia or entities under overall control of Russia," according to the report.

  • The report says it also found evidence that Russian forces would use Red Cross symbols on their vehicles "to facilitate their military operations," which is a violation of international humanitarian law, since the symbol must only be used to mark "medical units, transport and personnel or Red Cross organizations."

Worth noting: The OSCE said that there were "[s]ome violations and problems" identified in Ukraine's practices, particularly their treatment of prisoners of war, adding that they were "treated in ways that are incompatible" with the Geneva Convention.

  • However, the body noted that it could not confirm Russian allegations that Ukraine and not Russia caused "some of the death, injury or destruction."

Between the lines: The report's release comes after President Biden declared for the first time that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian."

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to Biden's statements on Twitter: "Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil."

The bottom line: "It is not conceivable that so many civilians would have been killed and injured and so many civilian objects ... would have been damaged or destroyed if Russia had respected its [international humanitarian law] obligations ... in conducting hostilities in Ukraine. The conduct of the siege of Mariupol is an extreme example," the OSCE said.

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