A Quebecer who investigated the atrocities committed in Ukraine was able to confirm the use of cluster bombs from the first days of the invasion, which could allow to accuse the senior Russian leaders of war crimes.
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“People were staring blankly, they were hungry and cold, they had left everything behind, sometimes even relatives who died in the bombings,” says Jonathan Pedneault, investigator at Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-governmental organization that lists human rights abusers on the planet.
The young man went to Lviv, Ukraine, the day after the Russian invasion to collect testimonies from survivors of the attacks. They based themselves there by virtue of its geographical position, a few kilometers from the border with Poland.
It is thanks to the hundred interviews carried out from February 25 to March 10 and the photos transmitted that the organization was able to confirm the use of three cluster bombs, prohibited by the Geneva Convention, and a hundred events directly targeting civilians, other breaches of the law of war.
It was at the central station that the HRW emissaries settled with their interpreter.
“We approached people who were coming from different parts of the country to flee to Poland and conducted interviews with those who agreed to testify”, reports in a telephone interview from Sweden the former journalist who became an investigator in 2016.
The meetings, in depth, focused on the facts experienced in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Donetsk and others.
He specifies that collecting testimonies in a crisis situation is a delicate task that must be done as soon as possible following the events.
“If we wait too long, the witnesses risk forgetting certain details; they may experience post-traumatic shock or simply be unable to relate what they have seen,” he explains.
The mandate of Human Rights Watch, like that of Amnesty International, better known here, does not include the prosecution of those responsible for unlawful violence.
It is up to the International Criminal Court or other courts. But the reports that these NGOs publish will be valuable evidence when the time comes to try war criminals.
Since leaving Ukraine, numerous war crimes such as summary executions, torture and rape have been added to the list of Russian misdeeds.
“For nearly a century, war must be waged within certain rules defined by international conventions. Those who do not respect these rules should expect sanctions,” he argues.