Geneva, 21 March 2023 (TDI): Lithuania’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mantas Adomenas, spoke on behalf of Nordic-Baltic countries, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, and Lithuania, at the 52nd United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC52).
He delivered a joint statement during the Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine condemning the human rights violations and war crimes committed by Russian forces and called for decisive action on accountability.
The Minister stated that Russian forces’ brutality is beyond measure. The indiscriminate killings of Ukrainian civilians and wanton attacks on schools, hospitals, and civic infrastructure, over the past year, have been the order of the day.
Russian soldiers have been perpetrating unimaginable cruelty in form of executions, torture, detentions, and conflict-related sexual violence. The Russian forces also have been engaged in the forced transfer, and deportations of Ukrainian children to Russian-occupied territory and their illegal adoption in Russia.
The Nordic-Baltic countries condemned the inhumane practices in the strongest possible terms and underscored the immediate need to return all Ukrainian children to their homes.
The Minister emphasized the findings of the Commission of Inquiry as objective and impartial as opposed to Russia’s deliberate disinformation and propaganda.
The findings provide an impetus to take decisive measures against Russian war crimes. Russia shouldn’t be exempted from impunity for its international law violations. The investigations must continue until full accountability.
The Lithuanian Minister commended the imperative role of the Commission and reaffirmed Nordic-Baltic countries’ support in that regard.
The statement further called for transparency in informing the world about the violations happening in Ukraine. It also called for strengthening the mandate of the commission and overall accountability efforts.
Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine
On 4 March 2022, Human Rights Council adopted resolution 49/1 in wake of the devastating human rights situation in Ukraine.
The Human Rights Council established an Independent International Commission of Inquiry comprising three human rights experts, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council for an initial duration of one year.
The Commission was tasked to complement, consolidate and build upon the work of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU), in close collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Commission’s mandate for investigation
In March 2022, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 49/1, which gave the Commission of Inquiry a mandate to investigate alleged human rights violations, international humanitarian law violations, and related crimes in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by Russia.
The Commission was tasked with identifying the facts, circumstances, and root causes of such abuses; collecting, consolidating, and analyzing evidence of such violations, including their gender dimension, and preserving all information and documentation in compliance with international law standards for future legal proceedings.
The Commission was also responsible for verifying relevant information and evidence, including field engagement, and cooperating with judicial and other entities. They were to identify those individuals and entities responsible for violations or abuses of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law, or other related crimes in Ukraine, with a view to ensuring accountability.
Additionally, the Commission was required to make recommendations for accountability measures, with a goal of ending impunity and ensuring accountability, including individual criminal responsibility and access to justice for victims.
Finally, the Commission was instructed to provide an oral update and a comprehensive written report to the Human Rights Council at its fifty-first and fifty-second sessions, respectively, followed by interactive dialogues, and to submit a report to the General Assembly at its seventy-seventh session.