A United Nations mission in Ukraine has expressed grave concern over the summary execution of more than 70 Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces while also documenting other breaches of international law by both warring sides.
The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) on Tuesday released its findings gathered between the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbouring country in February last year to May of this year.
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“OHCHR is gravely concerned by the summary execution of 77 civilians – 72 men and 5 women – while they were arbitrarily detained by the Russian Federation, and the further death of one detainee (a man) as a result of torture, inhumane detention conditions and/or denial of necessary medical care,” read the report, referring to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN agency also documented 864 cases of arbitrary detention by Russian troops, many of which also amounted to enforced disappearances.
It also reported the detention of 260 civilians “based on their perceived political views or other legitimate exercise of freedom of expression”.
The true number of cases might vary considering that Russia did not provide OHCHR with any access to conflict-related detainees, despite repeated requests, the UN agency said.
More than 90 percent of the reported cases described being subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence.
“Such treatment appeared to be carried out to force the victims to confess to provision of assistance to Ukrainian armed forces, to compel them to cooperate with the occupying authorities, or to intimidate those considered to hold pro-Ukrainian views,” said the report.
Ukrainian security forces have also been found guilty of unlawfully detaining at least 75 individuals – mostly suspected of conflict-related criminal offences. They also held 65 civilians incommunicado to extract confessions.
“Fifty-seven percent of interviewed detainees described being subjected to torture and ill-treatment by Ukraine, predominantly in unofficial places of detention and, to a lesser extent, in pre-trial detention facilities,” it said.
OHCHR also raised concern over the “vagueness and overly broad” wording of a law introduced in Ukraine in March last year that established criminal liability for collaborationists.
Under this law, the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general opened more than 5,400 criminal proceedings leading to 500 guilty verdicts.
“The vagueness and overly broad terminology in the legal provisions raise concerns with respect to the principle of legality and have led to arbitrary detention in a number of cases,” the UN agency said.
So far, Ukraine has convicted 23 Russians, OHCHR said, adding that it was not aware of any criminal proceeding launched against Ukrainians involved in arbitrary detention or enforced disappearance.