Russia’s systematically tortures Ukraine POWs, UN commission says

By Thomson Reuters Mar 15, 2024 | 6:32 AM

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – A United Nations commission of inquiry on Ukraine said on Friday that it had gathered more evidence that Russia has systematically tortured Ukrainian prisoners of war, documenting rape threats and the use of electric shocks on genitals.

The three-member Commission of Inquiry said in a report that the scale of such torture cases may amount to the most serious abuses known as crimes against humanity, describing their occurrence as “widespread and systematic”.

“Victims’ accounts disclose relentless brutal treatment inflicting severe pain and suffering during prolonged detention, with blatant disregard for human dignity,” the chair of the commission, Erik Møse, told reporters in Geneva.

The report has been submitted to the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which will decide in its current session whether to renew the commission’s mandate for another year.

Russia denies torture or other forms of maltreatment of POWs. Russia’s diplomatic mission in Geneva did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new report.

The U.N. body has previously documented a few cases of ill-treatment by Ukrainian forces of Russian detainees and Kyiv has said it would investigate any violations.

Friday’s report said some Ukrainian prisoners were so hungry in Russian detention centres that they resorted to eating soap, worms and leftover dog food, the report said.

One Ukrainian soldier was beaten so hard that he bled from his anus and was forced him to do repeated jumps on an injured foot, leading to the development of gangrene, it said. He was beaten further for attempting suicide in his cell using his own uniform, the report said, resulting in a broken toe and tailbone. He has required 36 hospitalisations since his release.


“What we have found strengthened our previous findings (on torture) and makes them yet more solid,” said Møse.

Asked what more was needed to make the formal determination of crimes against humanity, he said more proof was needed that torture was part of Russian policy.

Germany’s ambassador Katharina Stasch told Reuters the findings were “gruesome” and called for accountability.

The Human Rights Council decision on whether to renew the commission’s mandate for another year is seen as a key test of support for Ukraine more than two years after Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine’s ambassador has called for an extension of the commission’s mandate to allow for more evidence to be gathered.

“We consider it crucial that the commission continues to investigate all alleged violations and crimes so that the documented facts could be used as evidence in existing courts and future tribunals,” Yevheniia Filipenko told a U.N. meeting at the start of the current six-week session that runs to April 5.

(Additional reporting by Cecile Mantovani; Editing by Gareth Jones)