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I lost hope and will to live in Russian jail, says Ukraine prisoner of war

“Often, Russian armed forces failed to take feasible precautions to verify that the affected objects are not civilian,” maintained the rights experts, who work in an independent capacity and are not UN staff.“There were beatings, verbal abuse, electronic devices being used on areas, body parts, there was very limited access to food, water necessities,’ Mr. Møse continued. “The whole treatment of the prisoners of war and the picture drawn up, emerging from the way they were dealt with – how they were treated over long periods, months – enables us to use the word ‘horrific’”.“Victims’ accounts disclose relentless, brutal treatment inflicting severe pain and suffering during prolonged detention, with blatant disregard for human dignity. This has led to long-lasting physical and mental trauma,” he told journalists in Geneva.“They beat him on his buttocks in the isolation ward, causing bleeding from his anus,” the investigators reported. “In the yard, they beat him on his face and injured foot, leading to bleeding. They knocked out some of his teeth. He begged them to kill him.”Detailing the ordeal endured by all those besieged in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the report noted how survivors emerged from shelters and “recalled seeing large number of dead bodies on the streets in the rubble of their houses and in the cities’ hospitals”.

Erik Møse, Chair of Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine (centre), Commissioner Vrinda Grover (left) and moderator Todd Pitman, OHCHR, at a press conference in Geneva

“I lost any hope and the will to live,” one Ukrainian soldier and former prisoner of war told the Commission of Inquiry, describing how he had been “repeatedly subjected to torture and left with broken bones, broken teeth and gangrene” on an injured foot.

Rape, beatings

Confirming continuing deep concerns about allegations of genocidal intent by the invading forces, Ms. Grover said the Human Rights Council-mandated probe would “look further” into likely “direct and public incitement to commit genocide” by Russian media.The publication focuses on the siege and indiscriminate bombardment of Mariupol at the outset of the invasion, the use of torture and rape against civilians, prisoners of war and alleged collaborators, the unlawful transfer of 46 children from a care facility in Kherson to Russian-occupied Crimea in October 2022 and the destruction and damage of protected cultural treasures.

Graphic testimony

“We have gone through a large number of such statements and have found that many of them used are using dehumanizing language and calls for hate, violence and destruction,” she said. “And we are concerned with statements supporting the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, calling for the killing of a large number of persons.”Latest graphic findings from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine – created by the Human Rights Council two years ago – highlight the ongoing grave impact of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.Erik Møse, Chair of Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine (centre), Commissioner Vrinda Grover (left) and moderator Todd Pitman, OHCHR, at a press conference in Geneva

Mariupol and the ‘road to death’

“The evidence shows that Russian authorities have committed violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law and corresponding war crimes,” insisted Commissioner Vrinda Grover. “Further investigations are required to determine whether some of the situations identified may constitute crimes against humanity.”Testimonies of rape and other sexual attacks against women “also amount to torture”, the Commissioners maintained, pointing to threats of rape against male prisoners of war and the use of electric shocks intended to hurt or humiliate detainees.At least 58 medical centres were destroyed along with 11 power stations, the investigators said, adding that women who fled on foot from the front line called it “the road to death” and expressed a “pervasive feeling of fear”.

Genocidal intent concerns

After trying to kill himself at a prison in the town of Donskoy in Tula region, south of Moscow, the soldier recounted how his captors “subjected him to further beating”, said Erik Møse, Commission Chair. The report is due to be presented to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday 19 March. Watch the launch in Geneva here: https://webtv.un.org/en/schedule/2024-03-19 The 20-page report relies on testimonies from hundreds of individuals in order to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law committed by Russian forces and authorities. 


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