Press Release

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

26 June 2024

Kyiv 26 June 2024 –The 26th of June marks the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Every torture victim has a right to recognition, justice, redress, reparation, and rehabilitation. By documenting violations and independent reporting, the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) seeks to contribute to torture prevention and accountability.

Since February 2022, HRMMU has interviewed over 600 released Ukrainian civilian detainees and prisoners of war (POWs), including POWs who were freed from Russian captivity in an exchange on 31 May. Consistent with previous findings, every single interviewee from this recent exchange has given accounts of torture, from brutal beatings to prolonged stress positions, to electric shocks on genitals and to dog attacks.

Torture was applied to whole groups of prisoners. For example, in a so-called “admission procedure” to a facility located in the Russian Federation, POWs had to walk between rows of guards who beat them with police batons or tasered them. Exhausting physical exercises and humiliation, such as forcing POW to memorize and sing Russian patriotic songs, also continued to be part of the daily routines.

Many interviewees described feeling constantly hungry in captivity and being deprived of proper medical care for prolonged periods. Combined with poor hygienic conditions, this often caused POWs to lose significant body weight and contract skin diseases; some POWs lost several teeth. These accounts were consistent with HRMMU's own observations, with the interviewees' physical condition matching their testimonies.

“International humanitarian law reflects fundamental values that even amid the horror of war aim to preserve our humanity”, said the head of HRMMU Danielle Bell. “The protection and humane treatment of prisoners in the hands of belligerent parties is central to those values.

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, HRMMU has also spoken to 388 Russian prisoners of war during regular visits to places of internment in Ukraine. About half provided detailed accounts of torture or ill-treatment at transit locations after their evacuation from the battlefield. They described severe beatings, including with wooden mallets, as well as electric shocks. The torture ceased upon their arrival at official places of internment. While taking note of the humane treatment of POWs in official places of internment in Ukraine, steps must be taken to prevent torture inflicted on Russian POWS in transit locations.

“Torture is a serious crime, unequivocally prohibited under international law, and never justified under any circumstances”, added Ms Bell. “The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is an occasion to call on all States to eradicate the conditions and circumstances conducive to this heinous practice and hold perpetrators to account.”

For further information on HRMMU’s findings on the situation and treatment of prisoners of war and civilian detainees in the context of the armed conflict of Ukraine, please see: 

 Krzysztof Janowski

Krzysztof Janowski


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