Human Rights Watch finds evidence of Russian atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine
The Geneva Conventions governing the laws of war prohibit indiscriminate killing, enforced disappearances and torture, as well as humiliating or inhuman treatment of prisoners of war.
“There are a number of apparent war crimes being committed here, and the numbers suggest that they could potentially constitute crimes against humanity, which is a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population and could be part of government policy,” said Richard Weir, crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Weir traveled to Bucha to investigate the alleged crimes.
In Bucha, the story of a man’s body abandoned on a Russian killing field
“One of the most striking things about being in the city is that it was almost impossible to walk from street to street without finding someone else who had witnessed a potential war crime or which a family member was the victim of, or who had buried a neighbor or a friend or a family member close to their house,” he said in an interview. “The number of deaths and suffering in the city was extraordinary.”
Among those interviewed by Human Rights Watch researchers in Bucha were “victims and witnesses, emergency responders, morgue workers, doctors, a nurse, and local officials,” the report said. They documented 16 alleged unlawful killings, including nine summary executions and seven “indiscriminate killings of civilians”.
The researchers also documented two cases in which civilians were shot and injured. In one case, a 9-year-old girl was shot in the shoulder as she ran from Russian soldiers. In another, a man was shot in the neck while standing on the balcony of his apartment smoking a cigarette.
The bodies of residents who had been forcibly disappeared were found lying in the streets or in courtyards after the withdrawal of Russian forces, the report saidand some of the bodies showed signs of torture.
What are war crimes, and is Russia committing them in Ukraine?
The report highlights the story of Iryna, 48, whose husband, Oleh Abramova, was allegedly killed by Russian soldiers.
Iryna told Weir that Russian troops fired on her two-story house at the start of the occupation on March 5. The house caught fire while she was inside with Oleh and her father, Volodymyr.
Oleh shouted at the soldiers not to shoot, that there were peaceful civilians inside. The soldiers then ordered them out of the house, Iryna said, and accused her, Oleh and Volodymyr of killing people in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have fought the Ukrainian government for years.
According to Volodymyr, two soldiers took Oleh out of the yard and within minutes found his body on the sidewalk outside the fence, the report said.
Iryna “said the whole time there was a whole bunch of soldiers standing just outside across the street,” Weir said. “Just to show how many people all witnessed this execution which took place in the main square.”