New Evidence Reveals Starvation Tactics And Other Human Rights Violations Used By Russian Forces To Break Ukrainian People

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Investigations being carried out by dedicated starvation unit led by British Barrister and world-leading Starvation expert

Russian Forces Use Starvation Tactics To Break Ukrainian People

A new investigation by a first-of-its-kind Starvation Mobile Justice Team, supporting Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General’s (OPG) investigation into Russian starvation war crimes, has revealed starvation tactics used by Russian soldiers designed to break Ukrainian people.

As part of the UK, EU and US sponsored Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA), the international human rights law firm, Global Rights Compliance, led by Wayne Jordash KC – a world-leading British human rights barrister, has established Mobile Justice Teams (MJTs) which are providing critical support to the Ukrainian Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) by assisting Ukrainian investigators and prosecutors on the ground as the conflict continues.

The teams bring together leading domestic and international experts in the field of international criminal law, mass atrocity crimes investigations and case-building, as well as providing support to victims and witnesses.

The dedicated Starvation Mobile Justice Team, part of the Mobile Justice Teams established by Global Rights Compliance, began its work in January 2023.

Since January 2023, the Starvation Mobile Justice Team, which is led by British barrister and world-leading Starvation expert, Catriona Murdoch, Partner at Global Rights Compliance, has been focused on investigating starvation and related violations across Ukraine with an initial focus on the Chernihiv region, which was besieged from late February 2022 to early April 2022.

Today, the Starvation Mobile Justice Team can reveal as part of its initial investigation, that there are numerous credible and actionable incidents recorded in Chernihiv alone that establish a track record of repeated and/or coordinated attacks, resulting in objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population being targeted.

These incidents identified by the Starvation Mobile Justice Team include reported air and artillery attacks on critical water infrastructure throughout Chernihiv and an attack resulting in civilian casualties close to a hospital where people were allegedly queuing for water.

Other incidents identified as part of their initial investigation include widespread shelling of residential areas, hospitals and supermarkets, as well as a merciless attack on a bread queue outside a supermarket in Chernihiv city, which occurred on 16 March 2022.

The Starvation Mobile Justice Team’s investigations on the bread queue attack, which build on an earlier investigation conducted by Truth Hounds, have established that between approximately 0730hrs and 0900hrs on 16 March 2022, two queues formed on either side of the SOYUZ store, totaling between 20 and 90 people.

These civilians were struck by high explosive fragmentation projectiles. SOYUZ was a widely known food store, as a place to collect bread deliveries directly from trucks if the store was closed.

The Starvation Mobile Justice Team has identified two weapons systems that may have been used in the attack – the 122mm GRAD rocket system, and a Howitzer – both of which are inaccurate area weapons.

A GRAD rocket, which can launch 40 rockets in 20 seconds, is designed to clear a 1km square block, meaning that firing into a densely populated residential urban area is likely to cause serious collateral damage among civilians and civilian objects. Evidence also indicates that Russian drones were in operation in the area around 16 March. The drones would have provided quality imagery to the Russian fire controller of the targets and therefore civilians being fired upon.

The toll on innocent Ukrainian civilians was severe, with approximately 20 civilians killed, 14 were killed on 16 March, and more died in hospital thereafter. Reports on the number of injured vary between 26 and 50 who were brought to nearby hospitals. The hospitals had also been attacked substantially impacting power supplies and thus creating challenging circumstances to treat those injured or dying.

The Tip Of The Iceberg

Commenting on the investigation of Russia’s starvation crimes in Ukraine, Catriona Murdoch Partner and Head of Starvation Portfolio at Global Rights Compliance commented:

“The starvation crimes we are investigating in Chernihiv are the tip of the iceberg in Putin’s calculated plan to terrorize, subjugate and kill Ukrainian people. Having recently visited the impact site of the bread queue attack in Chernihiv with our Starvation Mobile Justice Team and seen the progress the OPG has made in investigating the persistent attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure, we are confident that perpetrators can be identified.

“From our initial investigations into Russia’s starvation crimes in Ukraine, the evidence is pointing towards a deliberate plan carefully designed to undermine and attack the very foundation and societal fabric of Ukrainians, subjecting them to inhumane living conditions. It is imperative that these crimes are fully investigated so that we can create a bedrock of truth and a historical record which can be used both to counter Russia’s lies and to find justice for Ukraine’s victims and the survivors of these crimes.”

The Starvation Mobile Justice Team is formed of top international and Ukrainian experts who can rapidly deploy around the country to assist Ukraine’s investigators and prosecutors to collect and rigorously analyze evidence of starvation atrocities, ensuring the highest number of perpetrators are brought to account and innocent Ukrainian victims see the justice they deserve.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been associated with a wide range of other starvation-related tactics, including the siege of Mariupol, the obstruction of humanitarian access to Russian-occupied areas, the pillaging of agricultural machinery and harvests, the shelling of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, and the blockade of ports. Critical civilian infrastructure has also been routinely targeted, including electricity infrastructure, shelters, energy and water supplies.

This announcement from Global Rights Compliance comes in the week following the UN Protection of Civilians week and the 5th anniversary of the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2417 (2018) which recognized the intrinsic link between conflict and hunger and unequivocally condemned the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and the unlawful denial of humanitarian access.

Before the invasion, Ukraine had 8,000 prosecutors, but only the war crimes department and two units (Donetsk and Lugansk) had expertise in investigating war crimes. The establishment of the Starvation Mobile Justice Team by leading international human rights law firm, Global Rights Compliance, is part of the wider Mobile Justice Teams that are helping to support the Office of the Prosecutor General and their new department and nine regional offices with the expertise, experience and policies needed to help gather evidence for potential use to prosecute international crimes.

Global Rights Compliance is the only international firm of human rights lawyers that has been consistently operating in Ukraine since 2015, working with the OPG and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to document international crimes. The law firm has developed a series of toolkits, manuals and guides focused on building legal capacity in Ukraine to enable the documentation and investigation of international humanitarian law crimes.

Global Rights Compliance has unparalleled experience in starvation war crimes since 2017 and has worked closely with the Swiss government to secure the historic Rome Statute Starvation Amendment in December 2019, which for the first time, enabled the international investigation and prosecution of the war crime of starvation in domestic armed conflicts.

The Starvation Mobile Justice Team’s investigations are made possible due to funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.