OSCE Special Monitoring Mission was not targeted, concludes Independent Forensic Investigation into tragic incident of 23 April 2017
Berne, 7 September 2017 – The Independent Forensic Investigation (IFI) team today presented its report to the Permanent Council of the OSCE on the tragic incident of 23 April 2017, when an OSCE armoured vehicle was struck by an explosion resulting in the death of an OSCE paramedic. The IFI team was assembled and deployed by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission at the request of the OSCE.
The incident occurred during a routine patrol of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) in the non-government controlled area of Ukraine near Pryshyb. A paramedic with the OSCE SMM was killed and two other patrol members were injured.
The aim of the IFI was to establish the facts of the incident by conducting a post-blast scene forensic investigation and technical assessment against the background of international humanitarian law. It was not within the mandate of the IFI to establish criminal responsibility or accountability for the incident.
The IFI undertook several investigative steps, which included the review of documents, interviews of witnesses, the inspection of the site where the incident occurred, the damaged vehicle and material collected at the site, and the conduct of a forensic medical analysis.
"We concluded that it is unlikely that the SMM was the intended target, given that the Mission rarely used this road, the patrol was planned late, and there was limited opportunity to lay mines during the patrol,” said Ambassador Alfredo Labbé, Vice-President of the IHFFC, who led the investigation team. "The explosion was most likely caused by a very recently laid anti-tank mine with a pressure fuze,” he added. Ambassador Labbé further concluded that "given the known fact that the road was used by civilian traffic heavy enough to trigger the mine, any such recent placement constitutes an indiscriminate and thus unlawful usage of an anti-vehicle mine pursuant to international humanitarian law."
OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger welcomed the report by the IHFFC and said its results would be carefully studied and taken into account by the OSCE.
"The indiscriminate use of mines by the sides to the conflict endangers civilians and SMM monitors alike. I remind all sides that the use of mines is in breach of the Minsk Agreements,” Greminger said. "The SMM monitors are doing a tremendously important job, reporting on the situation on the ground and carrying out dialogue facilitation activities. The safety of our unarmed civilian monitors in eastern Ukraine remains our number one priority,” he added.
The Executive Summary of the IFI report can be found here: https://www.osce.org/home/338361
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