Torture And Ill treatment Of Arbitrarily Held Detainees In Ukraine

Prolonged conflict in Eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014, has paved the path for arbitrary detention of hundreds of civilians. According to a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) News report, these detentions are carried out by Russia-backed armed groups in the Ukraine regions of Donetska and Luhanska. Charges against the arbitrary detainees include “espionage,” “participating in sabotage reconnaissance,” or “state treason,” according to the report. It also indicated that the detainees’ location is not acknowledged in numerous cases, resulting in the detentions to be enforced disappearing.

On 5 July, the HRW organization stated that the people in custody in Eastern Ukraine are being tortured and ill-treated by the Russia-backed armed groups. There is also new information concerning several women held by the “Donetsk people’s republic” based on “apparently fabricated charges of “espionage,” who are facing serious health issues.” Some detainees face serious medical conditions with no treatment, like pregnancy, gynecology conditions, and neurological conditions. Worsening the situation is the lack of medical care, including sexual and reproductive care for women.

The conditions experienced by women in custody and detention is devastating, which is embedded with torture, and being held in incommunicado. Senior Europe and Central Asia researcher at HRW Yulia Gorbunova stated that “to our knowledge, many detainees are being held incommunicado, in appalling conditions, and without access to a fair legal process or proper medical care,” describing the grave situation in Ukraine.

Moreover, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report on the human rights violation of detainees in Ukraine on 2 July. This report is based on over 1,300 individual cases of arbitrary detention that is conflict-related between 2014 and 2021. According to the data, it is estimated that about 4,000 conflict-related detainees were tortured and ill-treated during this period. The report emphasized accountability for violations, which includes remedy for victims.

The torture and ill-treatment suffered by the detainees should be condemned and acknowledged as a human rights violation. The head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, made powerful statements such as “the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is absolute. Torture can never be justified” and “[S]even years since the outbreak of the conflict, it is unacceptable that such egregious human rights violation remain largely unaddressed.”

Also, the HRW News Report, stated that “de facto authorities should immediately release them and anyone else being arbitrarily detained.” Regarding the necessary action to stop the suffering and torture of detainees, the UN Human Rights Report also stated that “concrete action must be urgently taken to eradicate them [practices including arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment], bring perpetrators to justice and provide victims with remedy and reparation.”

It is imperative that torture and ill-treatment of arbitrarily held detainees and their detention is profoundly condemned. Further, imminent action through non-violent methods such as multilateral diplomacy and dialogue should be taken to prevent further violations. By reflecting on the words of Matilda Bogner, we should all strive to achieve peace and thoroughly condemn any use of torture and other inhumane treatment. No human deserves to be tortured; it is essential to understand and act on humanity principles to achieve global peace.