GENEVA: UN investigators said Friday they had documented more than 400 arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances by Russian forces in Ukraine, and dozens by Kyiv‘s troops.
Matilda Bogner, head of the UN Rights Monitoring Mission present in Ukraine since 2014, decried a dramatic rise in rights abuses since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February.
Speaking to journalists from Odessa, she detailed thousands of civilian deaths, hundreds of arbitrary detentions and documented torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war.
If proven in a court of law “that a prisoner of war has been tortured and ill-treated while in custody, this would be a war crime,” she said.
She said her team had verified that Russian forces and affiliated groups had arbitrarily detained or disappeared 416 people in areas they occupy or control.
“Of those, 16 were found dead and 166 released,” she said.
They had also documented 51 cases of arbitrary arrests and 30 more that could amount to enforced disappearance carried out by Ukrainian law enforcement bodies, Bogner added.
The mission had “unimpeded access” to places of detention in areas controlled by Ukraine, she said, but Russia had not provided access to prisoners of war held in its territory or areas it controls.
“This is all the more worrying since we have documented that prisoners of war in the power of the Russian Federation … have suffered torture and ill-treatment, and in some places of detention lack adequate food, water, healthcare and sanitation,” she said.
She described a “welcoming process”, in which new detainees were forced to walk down a corridor with armed guards lined on either side, beating them severely as they went.
Bogner voiced deep concern about the health situation in the Olenivka penal colony, where she said PoWs were reportedly suffering from infectious diseases, including hepatitis A and tuberculosis.
The team had also documented some cases of torture and ill-treatment of Russian PoWs held by Ukrainians, typically at the time of capture and during transport to prison camps.