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UN panel to probe alleged human rights abuses in Ukraine

An elderly woman walks inside a metro station being used as a bomb shelter in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

GENEVA (Kyodo) -- The U.N. Human Rights Council agreed by a majority vote Thursday to scrutinize alleged human rights violations committed by Russia in northeastern regions of Ukraine, including Bucha, in late February and March 2022.

    The independent commission, launched in March, will be tasked with investigating and preserving evidence of human rights violations by Russia in the war-torn country.

    The council also tasked the human rights chief to update its member states at its next session, due to start in June, on human rights violations committed in the southern city of Mariupol.

    Of the 47-member Geneva-based body, 33 countries, including Japan and the United States, voted in support of the text, while 12 nations, with India and Pakistan among them, abstained. China and Eritrea voted against.

    Russia, suspended from the U.N. council in April following its invasion of Ukraine, skipped the meeting, though it could have participated in the discussions without being permitted to vote.

    In a video statement delivered before the vote, Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine's first deputy foreign minister, said the regions to be investigated "have experienced the most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades."

    During the debates, Western countries expressed strong support for Ukraine and denounced "atrocities" committed by Russian troops.

    Japan's deputy representative Kozo Honsei told the council that the killing of innocent civilians in Ukraine "cannot be allowed to continue."

    By contrast, China said the international community should do more to facilitate a political settlement between Ukraine and Russia.

    The U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in her address to the council that many of the civilian casualties in Ukraine were caused by explosive weapons and that "most of these casualties appear attributable to the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups."

    According to her office, there have been 7,326 civilian casualties since the war started, including 3,541 deaths, although the actual figures are likely much higher.

    Bachelet's office says reported violations in Ukraine include summary executions, torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearances. She said many of these violations "may amount to war crimes."

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