Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the UN Human Rights Observatory Mission in Ukraine, I would like to welcome those here and those who join us online.
As many of you know, our job is to document violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. One on the treatment of prisoners of war and the other on her overall human rights situation in Ukraine for the six months to 31 January 2023.
Consequences of hostilities against civilians
The war was fought at a terrible human cost. As of this week, more than 8,000 civilians have been recorded dead and nearly 14,000 injured. Over 90% were caused by missiles, explosive weapons and mines, and explosive war remnants.
Right to life, liberty and security of a person
The occupied territories of Ukraine documented the widespread use of summary executions and attacks by Russian forces on individual civilians, as well as arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances.
Since 24 February 2022, we have documented 621 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of civilians by Russian forces. Of the 127 people he interviewed after his release, 90% reported that members of the Russian security forces tortured him, ill-treated him and, in some cases, sexually assaulted him while in custody. Five of these civilians were boys from the age of 14 to the age of 17, who had been forcibly disappeared, ill-treated and tortured by the Russian military.
Since 24 February 2022, it has documented 91 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions by Ukrainian security forces. Of his 73 victims we interviewed, 53% were tortured or ill-treated by members of the Ukrainian military or law enforcement agencies.
The prohibition of torture and arbitrary deprivation of life is absolute. All perpetrators must be held accountable and victims and their families must enjoy the right to redress and truth. In this regard, we welcome the recent adoption by the Ukrainian parliament of a law amending the Penal Code to bring domestic law into line with the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
The horrific human toll of war is evident in the cases of conflict-related sexual violence we have documented since 24 February last year. This year, he had recorded 133 victims – 85 men, 45 women and 3 girls – by January 31st. 109 cases were committed by the Russian military, Russian law enforcement agencies and prison officials, and 24 by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), Ukrainian police, Ukrainian civilians or the territorial defense forces. Sexual violence frequently occurred when civilians and prisoners of war were held and in residential areas controlled by the Russian military.
We also documented transfers of civilians to areas within the occupied territories or to the Russian Federation. Some may amount to deportation or deportation. These deportations included children and adults who lived in social welfare institutions, and from parts of the Donetsk, Kharkov, Kherson, Kiev and Odessa regions occupied by the Russian Federation or temporarily controlled by the Russian military. This includes unaccompanied children who were
prisoner of war
We now turn to reports on the treatment of prisoners of war at all stages, from initial capture to transfer to subsequent internment sites.
Our team interviewed over 400 POWs, about 200 on each side. Ukraine has provided us with unhindered and classified access to official places of internment of Russian prisoners of war. The Russian Federation did not grant us access. However, we were able to conduct confidential interviews with released Ukrainian prisoners of war.
I will start with Russian prisoners of war in Ukrainian hands. We are deeply concerned about the summary execution of up to 25 Russian prisoners of war and personnel. Appetizer By the Ukrainian military that we recorded. This was often carried out immediately upon capture on the battlefield. We are aware that Ukrainian authorities are investigating her five cases, including her 22 victims, but we are not aware that the perpetrators have been prosecuted.
Nearly half of the 229 Russian prisoners of war we interviewed said they were tortured and ill-treated by members of the Ukrainian military and SBU, and to a lesser extent prison officials. The majority of these incidents occurred during the early stages of arrest and interrogation. Prisoners were beaten, shot in the leg, stabbed in the limbs, electrocuted, subjected to mock executions, sexual violence or death threats. Permanent places of internment, such as pretrial facilities and prisoner of war camps, reported far fewer abuses. However, last spring there were still complaints of beatings at some of these facilities in Dnipro, Vinnitia and Kharkov.
Under international law, prisoners of war should not be held in confinement. Many people are being held in closed confinement in Ukraine and we welcome the progress made with the establishment of a prisoner of war camp in the Lviv region in April 2022. December 2022. The Russian Federation does not have internment camps, and prisoners of war are routinely held in closed confinement.
In connection with the treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war, we are also deeply concerned about the summary execution of 15 Ukrainian prisoners of war shortly after their capture by Russian forces. Wagner Group military and security contractors carried out 11 of these executions for him.
Of the 203 Ukrainian POWs we interviewed, 67% fell into Russian hands after surrender was negotiated by their commanders. In these cases, the protection was increased when they were first captured.
However, most of the Ukrainian prisoners of war captured during the fighting were tortured and ill-treated before being detained. Members of the Russian Armed Forces and Russian Security Service tortured and ill-treated them to extract military information, to intimidate and humiliate them, or as a form of retaliation. Forms of torture included beatings, electrocution, or, in some cases, being shot or stabbed in the leg. Mock executions were also common. The report describes one case where a prisoner of war died of injuries within hours of being tortured.
The situation of many Ukrainian prisoners of war was shocking. The POWs we spoke to said they were provided with enough food to survive. Access to medical care is often inadequate or unavailable, sometimes with dire consequences, five of whom reportedly died in detention due to lack of medical care. reported.
The number of documented cases of torture and ill-treatment while incarcerated in prison facilities is shocking: more than 84% endured such ill-treatment. and were beaten and electrocuted periodically during testing in their cells or while roaming the facility. Members of the Russian Federal Prison Service (FSIN) and the heads of many internment camps in the Russian occupied territories systematically carried out such practices with prisoners of war. Former POWs told our colleagues that they feared that weekly trips to the shower would inevitably result in beatings and humiliations, often with sexual connotations. We documented that five POWs died from injuries sustained during torture in the camp.
Unless both parties to the conflict fully comply with international humanitarian law, the atrocities and massive impacts on civilians seen over the past year will continue.
And when a violation does occur, prompt action must be taken, first within the military itself, and through a full and effective investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the acts committed and their commanding officers. We must not allow cases of executions, torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and sexual violence to continue.
More than a year has passed since the Russian Federation launched an armed attack on Ukraine.
In the words of the High Commissioner, we reiterate our appeal for “the sanctity of life, the dignity of the human being, and respect for the principles of humanity.”