UN: torture of Ukrainians by Russian armed forces systematic

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Jill Edwards, has send a letter to the Russian Federation, expressing concerns about the widespread and systematic use of psychological and physical torture of Ukrainians by the Russian army.

According to the UN there are clear indications that Russian military forces in Ukraine are consistently and intentionally inflicting severe physical and psychological pain and suffering on Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war.

This torture is allegedly being carried out to extract intelligence or to force confessions from detained individuals, or because of their former membership or support of the Ukrainian armed forces, Edwards said in a letter to the Russian Federation.

'The alleged practices include electric shocks, beatings, hooding, mock executions and other threats of death,' the UN expert said. 'If established, they would constitute individual violations and may also amount to a pattern of State-endorsed torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.'

The allegations relate to the detention of Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war held in grossly inadequate conditions in facilities run by Russian military forces inside Ukraine. In the letter, sent jointly with other independent UN experts, Edwards said that the consistency and methods of the alleged torture suggests 'a level of coordination, planning and organisation, as well as the direct authorisation, deliberate policy or official tolerance from superior authorities'.

'Torture is a war crime, and the systematic or widespread practice of torture constitutes a crime against humanity,' the Special Rapporteur said. 'Obeying a superior order or policy direction cannot be invoked as justification for torture, and any individual involved should be promptly investigated and prosecuted by independent authorities,' she said.

Reports indicate that as a result of torture, ill-treatment and poor conditions of detention many Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war have suffered physical and psychological traumas, hallucinations, damage to internal organs, fractures and cracks in bones, extreme weight loss, sensory impairment as well as motor losses, strokes or the exacerbation of chronic diseases. Most individuals reportedly did not have access to adequate medical assistance during their detention.

'The longer the war goes on, the more reports are emerging of torture and other inhuman treatment,' Edwards said. 'Such cruelty inflames hostility and damages future hopes of peace and reconciliation between neighbours. I strongly urge relevant authorities to ensure that civilians and prisoners of war are protected and treated humanely at all times,' she said.

The Special Rapporteur plans to visit Ukraine to conduct a fact-finding inquiry later this year as part of her mandate.

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