March 30 (UPI) — The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday appointed a commission to investigate accusations of war crimes by Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
The three-person panel was appointed for an initial period of one year to “establish the facts, circumstances and root causes” of any war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine after the commission voted 49-1 in favor of creating an independent internal commission.
Additionally, the panel will be asked “to collect, consolidate and analyze evidence of such violations and abuses including their gender dimension and to systematically record and preserve all information documentation and evidence.”
Named to the panel were Erik Mose, who formerly served as a judge on the Supreme Court of Norway and president of the international criminal tribunal that prosecuted perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda; Jasminka Dzumhur, a human rights ombudsperson in Bosnia; and Pablo de Greiff, a veteran adviser on justice issues to international organizations from Colombia.
The announcement of the panel comes after the International Criminal Court earlier this month launched its own probe into potential war crimes spanning from the current war back to 2013 and the U.S. State Department last week announced it has assessed “that members of Russia’s armed forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.”
Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. human rights chief, said in a statement to the Human Rights Council on Wednesday that at least 1,189 civilians have been killed since the start of the invasion and more than 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced.
“The terror and agony of the Ukrainian people is palpable and is being felt around the world,” Bachelet said. “They wanted the war to stop and to return to peace, safety and human dignity.”
The appointment of the panel came as Russia continued shelling and sporadic small arms fire in Kyiv and Chernihiv into 1 a.m. Thursday, The New York Times and CNN reported, after Russian negotiators said during talks in Istanbul on Tuesday that they would “reduce military activity” in the two cities.
Continued attacks came amid skepticism regarding Russia’s promises from Ukraine and the West as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday night that the negotiations with Russia are “only words.”
“There are other words about alleged pullback of Russian troops from Kyiv and Chernihiv, and reduction of activities of the occupiers in these territories,” he said. “This is not a retreat, this is the result of the work of our defenders, who pushed them back.”
A delegation of Ukrainian lawmakers visiting Washington, D.C., on Wednesday also alleged that Russia was using the negotiations as a “smokescreen” to allow their forces to regroup and re-strategize.
“At this particular moment, these peace negotiations are far from real negotiations,” Ivanna Klympush-Tisintsadze, who chairs the Ukrainian Parliamentary Committee on Integration of Ukraine to the European Union said.