Ukraine: OSCE human rights office monitoring finds evidence of torture and sexual violence

Ukraine: OSCE human rights office monitoring finds evidence of torture and sexual violence

Allegations of arbitrary imprisonment and enforced disappearances of civilians living in areas under occupation are occurring with alarming frequency, with widespread reports of the use of torture and ill-treatment, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said today in a new report summarising its ongoing monitoring of violations of international law following Russia’s military attack in Ukraine. According to the many credible testimonies, torture and ill-treatment have been widespread in detention in all Russian-occupied areas.

“The credible evidence of human rights violations that we have collected is deeply worrying,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “The documented cases of torture and sexual-based violence contained in this report highlight the devastating impact the war is having on people’s lives, and make it all the more important to ensure accountability for those responsible for these crimes, as well as justice for all victims.”

In the course of its monitoring, ODIHR has received reports of summary executions, as well as torture and poor detention conditions of Ukrainian prisoners of war. For today’s report, ODIHR also interviewed witnesses who spoke of sexual violence, including allegations of rape, threats of rape and sexual violence, sexual harassment, electrocution of genitals, and forced nudity carried out by the Russian armed forces. Some reports of ill-treatment of Russian prisoners of war (POWs) by Ukrainian authorities have also been documented, and ODIHR analysed videos apparently showing the killing of POWs by both the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces.

ODIHR’s monitoring found evidence that Russia’s armed forces continued the routine use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated areas, leading to numerous civilian casualties. From late April 2023 attacks on civilian objects in residential areas were intensified, especially in Kyiv. ODIHR also collected further evidence of forcible displacements of civilians, including children, by the Russian authorities, within and from occupied areas of Ukraine.

All parties to an armed conflict must act in line with international humanitarian and human rights law, which explicitly bans indiscriminate attacks against civilians and protects the civilian population at all times against violence and inhumane treatment. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are prohibited worldwide, and every OSCE country has recognised that no circumstance whatsoever, including war or a threat of war, can justify torture.

Ukraine has been a priority of ODIHR’s work over the last year. The Office began its mission to monitor and report on the most urgent issues affecting the lives of civilians and prisoners of war immediately since the war began, and has now carried out over 200 interviews with survivors and witnesses of alleged human rights violations to help ensure accountability for violations committed in the context the armed conflict in Ukraine.

Today’s report is the third in a series that brings together key findings of the monitoring. ODIHR makes a number of recommendations to both parties to the conflict, calling on them to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and to fulfil their duty to investigate violations and bring those responsible to justice in fair trials.

All OSCE countries have committed to “respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law including the protection of the civilian population” in situations of armed conflict.


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