Press Release

Media briefing by Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine Matilda Bogner

09 September 2022

Good morning,

Today I am joining you from Odesa – a city in the south of Ukraine where the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission has been present since 2014. Every day, we speak to people across the country and hear from victims who have suffered human rights violations in the context of the armed conflict, which escalated following the armed attack of the Russian Federation.

We will be publishing our next report later this month but let me give you an update on some of our recent findings.

To date we have corroborated 14,059 civilian casualties: 5,767 civilians were killed and 8,292 injured by hostilities. As we have repeatedly said, we know that actual numbers are likely considerably higher.

Since 24 February, our Mission has verified that at least 416 people have been victims of arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances in territory occupied by the Russian Federation or in areas controlled by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups at the time. Of those, 16 were found dead and 166 released. We also documented 51 arbitrary arrests and 30 more cases that may amount to enforced disappearance perpetrated by Ukrainian law enforcement bodies.

We have documented a range of violations against prisoners of war. We have been granted unimpeded access to places of internment and detention in territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine. However, the Russian Federation has not provided access to prisoners of war held on its territory or in territory under its occupationincluding areas controlled by its armed forces and affiliated armed groups.

This is all the more worrying since we have documented that prisoners of war in the power of the Russian Federation and held by the Russian Federation’s armed forces or by affiliated armed groups have suffered torture and ill-treatment, and in some places of detention lack adequate food, water, healthcare and sanitation. We received information about a dire health situation in the penal colony in Olenivka, where many Ukrainian prisoners of war reportedly have been suffering from infectious diseases, including hepatitis A and tuberculosis. We have also documented many cases where Ukrainian prisoners of war have not been allowed to contact their relatives to tell them of their capture, their location and their health condition. This leaves families of captured soldiers desperate for information, deprived of their right to know what has happened to their loved ones.

We have also been following the cases of several pregnant prisoners of war interned in places controlled by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups. We urge the Russian Federation, as the detaining power, to consider the immediate release of these women on humanitarian grounds.

In Government-controlled territory, we have also documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war, usually upon capture, during initial interrogations or transportation to camps for internment. Our Mission has been able to visit a Ukrainian prisoner of war camp. We note, however, that most prisoners of war continue to be held in penitentiary facilities, violating the rule that prisoners of war shall not be interned in close confinement.

While Crimea, occupied by the Russian Federation since 2014, has received less attention in recent months, we have seen a significant deterioration in the situation there. This includes restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests, and violations of the right to a fair trial, as well as lack of accountability for such human rights violations. We are concerned that patterns of human rights violations documented in Crimea since 2014 may be repeated in territory newly occupied by the Russian Federation across Ukraine.

In Crimea, the Russian Federation continues to clamp down on freedom of expression by applying vague and ill-defined legislation, penalizing real or perceived criticism of the Russian Federation and its armed forces. Since March, we have documented the prosecution of 89 individuals in Crimea for – and I quote - “public actions directed at discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation”.

Teachers in Crimea who refused to endorse the so-called – and I quote - “special military operation” face retaliation and sanctions. Human rights defenders have been arrested and prosecuted for their work, and defence lawyers intimidated. We have documented arbitrary arrests and torture of individuals apprehended in the Russian-occupied Kherson region and transferred to Crimea. In addition, men who cross the administrative boundary line from mainland Ukraine to Crimea have been subjected to so-called ‘filtration’ by the Russian Federal Security Service at checkpoints. According to credible reports received by our Mission, this exposes them to the risk of enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment.

Crimean Tatars continue to face intimidation and harassment, police raids and house searches, and prosecution under terrorism and extremism-related offences in proceedings, which often fall short of human rights standards. Furthermore, Crimean Tatar detainees continue to be deported to remote areas of the Russian Federation to serve their sentences.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine will continue to document and report the facts on the ground and the voices of victims. We consider this to be an essential part of seeking to prevent further violations and to hold those accountable for the violations already committed. More of our findings on the impact of the armed attack by the Russian Federation on human rights in Ukraine will be presented in our next report, which will be issued on 27 September.

Thank you.

 

ENDS

Tanya Tesliuchenko

Tanya Korol

OHCHR
Communications Officer

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