UN documents torture and abuse of prisoners in Ukraine conflict

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Prisoners captured by belligerents in the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine have suffered systematic torture, sexual violence and other abuses, the United Nations agency for human rights human rights in a report released on Friday.

The report released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said ill-treatment of prisoners was particularly endemic in the initial phase of the seven-year conflict, but noted that it continues. nowadays.

“Seven years after the start of the conflict, it is unacceptable that such blatant human rights violations remain largely unaddressed,” said Matilda Bogner, head of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. “The prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is absolute. Torture can never be justified.

The conflict in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, known as the Donbass, erupted in April 2014, weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula following the ouster of the former President of the country, of Moscow leanings. The Russian-backed separatists took control of large areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, established the so-called “people’s republics” and fought government forces trying to regain control. Over 14,000 people have been killed.

OHCHR estimated the total number of conflict-related detentions between April 14, 2014 and April 30, 2021 at 7,900-8,700, including 3,600-4,000 on the government side and 4,300-4,700 by separatists.

He said in the report that both sides were using secret detention centers free from any scrutiny by the prosecution or access by rights monitors. The government side stopped using them in 2017, but separatists continue to hold prisoners incommunicado, denying access to relatives and observers at that time, OHCHR said.

OHCHR has analyzed over 1,300 individual cases of conflict-related detention. He said that in cases that occurred only between 2014 and 2015, 74% of detainees held by government forces and 82.2% to 85.7% of those detained by rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk regions respectively were Been subjected to frequent torture and ill-treatment.

He estimated the total number of conflict-related detainees subjected to torture and ill-treatment in 2014-2021 at around 4,000 to 1,500 by government agents and around 2,500 by separatists. They included around 340 victims of sexual violence.

OHCHR said that in both government-controlled and separatist territories, “torture and ill-treatment, including conflict-related sexual violence, have been used to extract confessions or information, or to force detainees to cooperate, as well as for fine punitive purposes, to humiliate and intimidate, and to extort money and property.

The methods of torture and ill-treatment used by both sides included beatings, wet and dry asphyxiation, electrocution, rape, forced nudity, water, food, sleep or toilet deprivation, mock executions, hoods and threats of death or further torture or sexual violence, or harm to family members.

Stanislav Aseyev, a journalist who worked for US-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and spent 28 months in the separatist Izoliatsia (Isolation) prison in Donetsk, said the facility had a system of elaborate torture with an emphasis on electric shocks.

“They would strip naked a naked person tied to a metal chair with a band, then apply an electric shock to different parts of the body,” Aseyev, who was released during a 2019 prisoner swap, told The Associated Press.

Aseyev, who was also tortured, said hearing others screaming in pain under torture in a nearby cell added to the trauma. “It is unbearable to hear a person cry under torture in a neighboring room,” he told the AP.

OHCHR has named the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) as the most common perpetrator of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment on the government side, adding that battalions of volunteers were also responsible at the start of the conflict.

On the rebel side, the report said various armed groups and, later, members of the separatist “state security ministries” were responsible for the torture and abuse of prisoners.

The report notes that most of the abuses have gone unpunished.

“We have observed a lack of political will and motivation to investigate cases allegedly perpetrated by government actors, as well as an abuse of process to avoid proper investigation of such cases,” Bogner said. taken into account that the number in the tens.

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