Nearly 5,800 people have been killed in the conflict in Ukraine and the situation of prisoners of war in Russian-controlled areas is “worrying”, the head of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission of the United States said on Friday. UN in the country.
Matilda Bogner was presenting some of the findings of her latest report to reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The conflict is now in its seventh month and his team has confirmed 14,059 civilian casualties so far, with 5,767 people killed and 8,292 injured.
“As we have said many times, we know the real numbers are probably much higher,” she added.
Listening to victims
Ms Bogner was talking about the city of Odessa, in southern Ukraine. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission has been present in the country since 2014, following the outbreak of fighting in the east between government forces and separatists.
Its latest report will be published on September 27.
Other discoveries reveal at least 416 proven victims of arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances in the territories occupied by Russia or in areas under its control. Sixteen were found dead, while 166 were released.
Meanwhile, 51 arbitrary arrests and 30 other cases that may amount to enforced disappearance have been perpetrated by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies.
Status of prisoners of war
The Mission also documented a series of violations against prisoners of war. While personnel were granted unimpeded access to places of internment and detention located on Ukrainian-controlled territory, Russia did not allow access to prisoners of war held on its territory or in a territory under occupation.
“This is all the more worrying as we have documented that prisoners of war in the power of the Russian Federation and detained by the armed forces of the Russian Federation or by affiliated armed groups have suffered torture and ill-treatment, and in some places of detention, the lack of adequate food, water, health care and sanitation,” Ms. Bogner said.
They were also informed about the disastrous sanitary situation of the penal colony of Olenivka, located to the east.
Many Ukrainian prisoners of war are believed to be suffering from hepatitis A, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases there. Moreover, many have not been allowed to contact their relatives, depriving their families of the right to know what happened to them.
Call to Russia
“We have also followed the cases of several pregnant POWs interned in places controlled by the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups. We urge the Russian Federation, as the detaining power, to consider the immediate release of these women for humanitarian reasons,” Ms. Bogner said.
The Mission has also documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war in government-controlled territories, usually during their capture, during initial interrogations or during transport to internment camps.
“Our mission was able to visit a Ukrainian POW camp. We note, however, that most prisoners of war continue to be held in penitentiary establishments, in violation of the rule that prisoners of war will not be interned in solitary confinement.”
Ms Bogner also mentioned the “significant deterioration” of the situation in Crimea, occupied by Russia since 2014.
She cited restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests, violations of the right to a fair trial, as well as the lack of accountability for these human rights violations. .
The Mission is concerned that patterns of human rights violations documented there can be repeated in territory newly occupied by Russia.
“In Crimea, the Russian Federation continues to suppress freedom of expression by enforcing vague and ill-defined legislation, penalizing real or perceived criticism of the Russian Federation and its armed forces,” she said.
“Since March, we have documented the prosecution of 89 people in Crimea for – and I quote – ‘public actions aimed at discrediting the armed forces of the Russian Federation’”.
Reprisals, arrests, intimidation
Meanwhile, teachers who refused to endorse what Russia called its “special military operation” in Ukraine are facing reprisals and sanctions. Human rights activists have been arrested and prosecuted for their work, and defense lawyers intimidated.
“We have documented arbitrary arrests and torture of individuals apprehended in the Russian-occupied Kherson region and transferred to Crimea,” Ms. Bogner said.
“In addition, men crossing the administrative border between mainland Ukraine and Crimea were subjected to so-called “screening” by the Russian Federal Security Service at checkpoints. According to credible information received by our Mission, this exposes them to the risk of enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment.
She added that Crimean Tatars continue to face intimidation and harassment, police raids and house searches, and prosecutions for terrorism and extremism-related offenses in proceedings that “are often below human rights standards”.
In addition, detainees belonging to this ethnic group continue to be deported to remote areas of the Russian Federation to serve their sentences.
Ms. Bogner said the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission will continue to document and report the facts on the ground, including the voices of victims.
“We consider this to be an essential element in trying to prevent further violations and to hold people accountable for violations already committed.