OHCHR report on the Treatment of Prisoners of War and Persons Hors de Combat in the Context of the Armed Attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine: 24 February 2022 – 23 February 2023
24 March 2023
This report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) focuses on the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs) by the parties to the international armed conflict since the large-scale armed attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine commencing on 24 February 2022.
The report covers the period from 24 February 2022 to 23 February 2023 and is based on the findings of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.1 It examines international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) violations in relation to the treatment of POWs during all stages of captivity – from their capture through to their internment and repatriation. The report also describes IHRL and IHL concerns in relation to the criminal prosecution of POWs. By providing recommendations to both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, OHCHR seeks enhanced protection for POWs and improvement of their conditions of internment, regardless of their affiliation, and for all perpetrators responsible for violations of the rights of POWs to face due accountability.
The ongoing armed attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, in breach of the UN Charter and international law, has led to a wide range of IHL and IHRL violations. Since 24 February 2022, a large number of members of the armed forces and other combatants have been captured by the parties to the international armed conflict. Through documenting and cross-checking individual cases, OHCHR identified patterns of IHL and IHRL violations in relation to the treatment of POWs by the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Many of the documented violations amount to gross violations of IHRL, as well as to serious violations of IHL and thus may constitute war crimes.
The Government of Ukraine provided OHCHR with full and confidential access to POWs in official places of internment, which OHCHR acknowledges with great appreciation. Further, the State Penitentiary Service and the Office of the Prosecutor General have actively engaged with OHCHR in relation to concerns raised regarding the treatment of POWs. OHCHR has not been granted access to POWs interned by the Russian Federation despite repeated requests. On one occasion, on 19 August 2022, OHCHR was allowed to meet a group of 13 Ukrainian men POWs interned in a pre-trial detention facility (SIZO) in Luhansk. However, OHCHR was not allowed to conduct confidential interviews.