Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
23 August 2022
GENEVA, 23 August 2022 - We are concerned by reports that the Russian Federation and affiliated armed groups in Donetsk are planning - possibly in the coming days - to try Ukrainian prisoners of war in what is being labelled an ‘international tribunal’ in Mariupol.
While there are few details available, photos and video footage published in the media and on social media appear to show metal cages being built in Mariupol’s philharmonic hall, apparently to restrain prisoners of war during proceedings.
Under international law, individuals entitled to prisoner-of-war status have combatant immunity and cannot be prosecuted for having participated in hostilities, or for lawful acts of war committed in the course of the armed conflict, even if such acts would otherwise constitute an offence under domestic law.
If prisoners of war are charged with crimes, they are entitled to due process and fair trial guarantees. No sentence or punishment may be passed on them unless it is delivered by an impartial and regularly constituted court.
We recall that international humanitarian law prohibits the establishment of courts solely to judge prisoners of war and that wilfully depriving a prisoner of war of the rights of fair and regular trial amounts to a war crime.
We are furthermore concerned that prisoners of war have generally been held without access to independent monitors, exposing them to the risk of being tortured to extract a confession. There have also been worrying public statements by Russian officials and members of affiliated armed groups labelling Ukrainian prisoners of war as ‘war criminals’, ‘Nazis’, and ‘terrorists’, thereby undermining the presumption of innocence.
We reiterate our calls to the Russian Federation to grant independent monitors full access to all individuals detained in relation to the armed conflict in Ukraine, by the Russian Federation, including those held by Russian-affiliated armed groups.
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