War in Ukraine: According to the UN, many Ukrainian and Russian prisoners of war were tortured |

The “vast majority” of Ukrainian prisoners held by Russian forces reported torture and ill-treatment. As soon as they were captured, some Ukrainian prisoners of war were beaten or robbed of their personal belongings.

Matilda Bogner, head of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said during a video conference from Kiev that “prisoners of war were later taken to internment sites in a disturbing manner.”

Ms. Bogner cited the example of Tasers or electric shock attacks with military phones. According to him, these treatments were aimed at intimidating and humiliating them.

A man detained in a prison near Olenivka told the UN team that members of armed groups linked to Russia “tied wires to his genitals and nose” and “shocked” him. “They were just having fun and my answers to their questions were not interesting,” said the head of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Beatings during “admission procedures”.

In general, according to statements collected by the UN, POWs are subjected to “reception procedures” upon arrival at certain internment sites. During these “procedures”, they are beaten, threatened, attacked by dogs or stripped for a long time.

Witnesses told them that in mid-April 2022, at least one prisoner of war had died during an “admission procedure” at a penal colony near Olenivka. UN teams said they have received information about eight other alleged deaths in April 2022. they try to confirm them.

Over the past few months, the UN mission has interviewed 159 prisoners of war held by Russia and affiliated armed groups and 175 prisoners of war held by Ukraine. The team was granted unfettered access to Russian POW prisons in Ukraine, but the UN has still not been granted confidential access to Russian POWs.

Matilda Bogner, head of the UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, in Geneva.

Ukrainian prisoners of war were forced to run naked from room to room

Other Ukrainian detainees described forms of physical abuse, including stabbings, stun guns, threats of mock execution, hanging by the hands or feet, and lighting cigarettes.

“I still can’t stand the sound of duct tape. The guards used it to immobilize and torture the prisoners,” said a witness quoted by the UN team.

The UN has also documented various forms of sexual violence, such as dragging a male victim with a rope attached to his genitals or forced nudity in response to the threat of rape.

Several women described being beaten, electrocuted and threatened with sexual violence during interrogation elsewhere. They were also subjected to degrading treatment that amounted to sexual violence, such as being forced to run naked from one room to another.

Russian prisoners of war were stabbed or electrocuted

The report on the treatment of Russian prisoners of war notes “credible allegations of summary executions and a number of cases of torture and ill-treatment of Russian prisoners of war captured by Ukrainian forces.” According to the UN, several cases of torture and ill-treatment were committed by members of the Ukrainian armed forces.

“We have documented cases of torture and ill-treatment, mainly when people are being captured, or during preliminary interrogations, or when they are taken to transit camps and internment sites,” explained Ms. Bogner.

In a number of cases, POWs were stabbed or electrocuted with a TAPik military phone by Ukrainian law enforcement officers or military personnel guarding them. “It was the military phone that scared us the most. The feeling was terrible. Your whole body froze and you fell on your side,” recalled a Russian prisoner of war interviewed by UN teams.

Russia and Ukraine are parties to the Third Geneva Convention

The mission also documented cases of ill-treatment of Russian prisoners of war, including “welcome beatings,” in a penal colony in Dnepropetrovsk Oblast and several pretrial detention facilities.

Confronted by the plight of prisoners on both sides, Ukraine has opened a series of criminal cases related to alleged abuse of prisoners of war by members of its armed forces. “We expect progress in these cases,” said the representative of the OHCHR in Ukraine, reminding that “the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment is imperative, even in fact, especially during armed conflicts.”

More broadly, accountability is key to preventing and deterring further violations. There is a clear legal obligation for the UN to investigate and prosecute all allegations of violations of international humanitarian law related to the treatment of prisoners of war under the control of parties to the conflict, regardless of their affiliation.

“Both sides should do it fairly, quickly and impartially,” said Ms. Bogner, noting that Kyiv and Moscow are parties to the Third Geneva Convention, which sets out requirements for the treatment of prisoners of war.

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