The United Nations human rights office said recently that Russian forces carried out widespread and systematic torture of civilians who were detained in connection with its attack on Ukraine, summarily executing dozens of them.
The global body interviewed hundreds of victims and witnesses for a report detailing more than 900 cases of civilians, including children and elderly people, being arbitrarily detained in the conflict, most of them by Russia.
The vast majority of those interviewed said they were tortured and in some cases subjected to sexual violence during detention by Russian forces, the head of the U.N. human rights office in Ukraine said. The report, which covers a 15-month period from the start of the Russian invasion to May 2023.
“Torture was used to force victims to confess to helping Ukrainian armed forces, compel them to cooperate with the occupying authorities or intimidate those with pro-Ukrainian views,” said Matilda Bogner.
Ukraine gave U.N. investigators “unimpeded confidential access” to detainees at official detention centers, with the exception of a group of 87 Russian sailors,” she said. “The Russian Federation did not grant us such access, despite our requests,”
The U.N. rights office has previously documented the detention and summary execution of Ukrainian prisoners of war by Russia. The latest report found that Russian forces also carried out at least 77 summary executions of civilians.
Those detained included local officials, humanitarian volunteers, priests, and teachers, many of whom were held incommunicado in “deplorable conditions,” the report found.
U.N. experts found no evidence that Russian authorities have investigated allegations of abuse by their own forces. The report expressed concern over a bill that would exempt perpetrators from criminal liability for crimes committed in occupied parts of Ukraine under some circumstances.
“This would violate the state’s obligation to investigate and prosecute serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of international human rights law,” Bogner said.
Bogner urged Russian authorities to provide information to relatives on the whereabouts and fate of people detained and to release any civilians who remain arbitrarily detained.
While Ukraine has launched criminal probes against Russian forces over the detention of civilians, resulting in 23 convictions, the U.N. rights office said it was not aware of any investigations against Ukraine’s own forces for such violations.
Series: Return to Ukraine
- Return to Ukraine: A trauma loop of travel from Milwaukee to a country still at war a year later
- From Weddings to War: How Kostiantyn and Vlada Liberov photograph Ukraine's daily horrors
- Being Friends of Angels: The Milwaukee nonprofit saving lives and offering hope in Ukraine
- Mayors of Milwaukee and Irpin expand Sister City cooperation after visit by nonprofit delegation
- Interview with Tom Barrett: U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg reflects on forging ties with Irpin
- Wisconsin Ukrainians host annual fundraising picnic to support homeland on 500th day of war
- Advanced Wireless to donate 840 access points to rebuild Irpin's citywide Wi-Fi network
- Children of Irpin begin planning mural for Mitchell Airport to showcase Sister City friendship
- Irpin is not forgotten: Residents thank Milwaukee Independent for reporting on their "Hero City"
- Milwaukee photojournalist on assignment in Kyiv during July 2 Russian drone strike targeting civilians
- Russian cruise missile attack kills residents far from front lines in Western Ukraine city of Lviv
- Ukraine arrests man accused of directing Russian ballistic missile strike on Kramatorsk pizza parlor
- Milwaukee offers Ukrainian refugee family life-saving treatment for son's genetic condition
- Nikita Pirnach: Irpin student hopes to help his country after finishing education in Milwaukee
- Sick children wait for overseas medical treatments as a new generation is born in Ukraine during war
- Iryna Suslova: The superwoman saving Ukrainian children abducted by Russia
- How a group of Ukrainian mothers, wives, and daughters are distributing vital humanitarian aid
- Freeing Freddie: Educational program aims to reduce PTSD for Ukraine's war-weary children
- The trauma of living: When being killed is the preferred choice to being disfigured from battle
- President Zelenskyy offers gratitude and awards to wounded soldiers while visiting Lviv Hospital
- Former Vice President Mike Pence visits Irpin during unannounced campaign trip to Kyiv
- Military Hospitals provide vital care for Ukrainian soldiers in need of hope and healing
- Combat surgeons pioneer advances in maxillofacial reconstruction of Ukraine's injured heroes
- Milwaukee donors cover cost of reconstructive surgery for American volunteer wounded in battle
- In their own words: Listening to the Voices of Children talk about their experiences from war
- Traumatized by War: Children of Ukraine carry on after losing parents, homes, and innocence
- Widespread Torture: U.N. report documents Russia's systematic executions of Ukrainian civilians
- Wisconsin volunteers sort and pack donated medical supplies for use in Ukraine's hospitals
- Lviv warehouse serves as vital link in medical supply chain from Milwaukee to frontlines
- Aid from Milwaukee is providing internally displaced people in Ukraine with food and clothing
- Iryna Pletnyova: How the city of Uman transformed into a hub for refugees fleeing war
- Bombs in the night: Why children in Uman are still traumatized by Russia's missile attack
- School Bunkers: When a national flag becomes a memorial to dead Ukrainian students
- Hasidic life in Uman: A journey across Ukraine to the Tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
- Tetiana Storozhko: Being a witness to the history of Roma culture in Ukraine
- Remembering Oskar Schindler: A photojournalist’s diary from the streets of Jewish Kraków
Frank Jordans and MI Staff
Rodrigo Abd (AP)
Milwaukee Independent has reported on Russia’s brutal full-scale invasion of Ukraine since it began on February 24, 2022. In May of 2022, Milwaukee Independent was the first news organization from Wisconsin to report from Milwaukee’s Sister City of Irpin after its liberation. That work has since been recognized with several awards for journalistic excellence. Between late June and early July of 2023, Milwaukee Independent staff returned to Ukraine for a second assignment to report on war after almost a year. The editorial team was embedded with a Milwaukee-based nonprofit, Friends of Be an Angel, on a humanitarian aid mission across Ukraine. For several weeks, Milwaukee Independent documented the delivery of medical supplies to military and civilian hospitals, and was a witness to historic events of the war as they unfolded.