Matilda Bogner, Head of the UN’s human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, said that, over the past few months, her team had interviewed 159 prisoners of war – or POWs – both men and women, held by Russia, and 175 male prisoners of war held by Ukraine.
Ukraine gave the mission access to Russian POWs where they were being held. Russia did not, so interviews were conducted with Ukrainian POWs when they were released.
Ukrainian POWs have said that they were frequently subjected to prolonged beatings, threats, electric shocks and dog attacks. Nine people are said to have died during such attacks in April this year.
Women POWs told interviewers that they were not subjected to physical violence but described being psychologically tormented by the screams of male POWs being tortured in nearby cells. Both men and women prisoners reported being subjected to various forms of sexual violence.
The vast majority of Ukrainian prisoners who were interviewed said that during their internment they were tortured and ill-treated.
They said their treatment was not only used to coerce them to give military information or statements about alleged crimes but to intimidate and humiliate them on a daily basis.
POWs described being beaten, including with batons and wooden hammers, being kicked, and given electric shocks with tasers and a military phone known as TAPik.
Russian POWs, held by Ukraine, told interviewers of summary executions and several cases of torture and ill-treatment, mostly when they were captured, first interrogated, or moved to transit camps and places of internment. In some cases, they said they were punched and kicked in the face and body after surrendering and when they were interrogated.
In several cases, Russian POWs said they were stabbed or given electric shocks with the ‘TAPik’ phone by Ukrainian law enforcement officers or military personnel guarding them.
Ms Bogner said that states must treat all prisoners of war humanely at all times, from the moment they are captured until their release and repatriation, and that the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment is absolute, even in times of armed conflict.
She also said that accountability is key to deterring and preventing further violations, adding that the parties to the conflict have clear legal obligations to investigate and prosecute all allegations of violations of international humanitarian law in relation to the treatment of prisoners of war within their control.