While an estimated 7 million Ukrainian refugees have already crossed the border to neighboring countries and countless civilian centers across Ukraine are being bombarded in the most vicious and inhumane manner by troops loyal to President Vladimir Putin, it should be noted that the first war crimes committee established to date to look into these crimes was established not by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but by the Ukrainian Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC) and the French NGO Yahad In Unum under the supervision of Catholic priest Patrick Desbois.
The fact-finding unit has been established with the stated goal of “Discovering the horrors of the crimes committed on a massive scale, day after day, against the Ukrainian civilian population in Mariupil, Kharkiv, Mikolayiv and more widely on the whole territory of Ukraine.”
The unit is working to collect as many filmed testimonies as possible of the victims of these crimes, examining the charge that civilians including women, the elderly, and children have been targeted without any link to military targets.
The statement issued by the unit notes: “Innocent citizens trying to leave the cities are killed by bullets in their cars or in the street. Schools, kindergartens, and hospitals are targeted by Russian missiles. The voice of a witness is a cry thrown to the sky. It must also be heard by the courts of the International Criminal Court and countries like Germany, which have launched investigations.”
Patrick Desbois, the author of “Holocaust by Bullets,” who is well known for his work on the mass shootings that took place in Ukraine and other countries that were occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II, commented on Monday: “Everybody knows that for justice, an eyewitness is key to confront denial by Putin and his helpers. The voices of the witnesses must be saved to confront crimes committed by Russians.”
He added, “Almost 20 years ago, my organization Yahad In Unum and I began to investigate the Holocaust by Bullets crimes committed in Ukraine followed by other countries, in each village occupied by the Nazi units. We built a special methodology and interviewed more than 8,000 witnesses of the Holocaust by bullets. I never thought that in 2022, I would need to once again be investigating war crimes on these same lands.”
Yahad In Unum was created in 2004 by Desbois to document in the most thorough way possible the Holocaust by Bullets, the Roma genocide, and other mass crimes in the various places where they occurred throughout this vast geographical area. Eventually, Yahad In Unum began to investigate genocide and other mass crimes in Guatemala, Iraq, and Syria.
Through its research work, and based on a unique methodology, Yahad In Unum has collected some 7,500 testimonies from eyewitnesses and survivors of mass shootings in Eastern Europe. To this day, Yahad has conducted 195 research trips in 11 eastern European countries and has identified over 3,100 extermination sites.