- New evidence has emerged that Russian forces unlawfully detained and tortured people in a torture center and in other facilities in Kherson and vicinity during their occupation of the area between March and November 2022.
- It is a war crime to willfully mistreat, torture, or kill civilians or captured combatants, to willfully cause great suffering or serious injury, or to unlawfully deport or transfer them.
- Those responsible for these horrific acts should not go unpunished and the victims and their families need to receive redress for their suffering and information about those still missing.
(Kyiv, April 13, 2023) – Russian forces unlawfully detained and tortured residents of the city of Kherson and its vicinity during their occupation of the area between March and November 2022, Human Rights Watch said today.
Victims and their family members told Human Rights Watch about torture and other ill-treatment at a pretrial detention center on Teploenerhetykiv Street in Kherson that local residents referred to as a “hole,” as well as a detention facility on Perekopska Street and makeshift facilities at the municipal administration building, a village school, and an airport hangar. Former detainees consistently reported similar forms of abuse, including severe beatings with sticks and rubber batons, electric shocks, threats of death or mutilation, and use of painful stress positions. No adequate medical care was provided to detainees.
“Russian occupying forces carried out terrifying torture and other abuses against Kherson residents in the torture center on Teploenerhetykiv Street and numerous other detention facilities,” said Yulia Gorbunova, senior Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Those responsible for these horrific acts should not go unpunished and the victims and their families need to receive redress for their suffering and information about those still missing.”
Human Rights Watch interviewed 34 people about the abusive treatment of civilians during the Russian occupation of the Khersonska region, from March 2, 2022 until the withdrawal of Russian forces from much of the area on November 11. Twelve former detainees and 10 family members described detainees being tortured or witnessing the torture of other detainees, which in three reported cases resulted in their deaths. These interviews about torture build on dozens of others about torture that Human Rights Watch conducted with Khersonska region residents during earlier months of the occupation, for a July 2022 report.
Russian forces in Kherson appeared to adopt a similar pattern in their treatment of civilians throughout the occupation. They would aggressively search a residence and then detain one or more people living there on a variety of accusations. Several detainees reported that the Russian forces beat and threatened them or their relatives, including older people. Russian soldiers would then cover the eyes or head of those being taken into custody with a hat or bag and force them into a vehicle. They would then be taken to one of the 20 or more detention centers in and around Kherson.
Nearly all of the torture cases documented recently in Kherson involved people held in the pretrial detention center at 3 Teploenerhetykiv Street, 3. One person was also held in makeshift detention facilities at the Kherson International Airport and in the Kherson municipal administration building. Another said that her cellmate had previously been previously held in a pretrial detention center on at 10 Perekopska Street, where the BBC and others reported that Russian occupation forces tortured people. Another former detainee, taken about 120 kilometers from Kherson, said he was held in a 2-by-3 meter storage room of a village school.
Human Rights Watch previously documented cases of torture of detainees, including Ukrainian prisoners of war from the Territorial Defense Forces, at the former National Police Directorate building on 4 Liuteranska Street (formerly Kirova Street).
One former detainee held at Teploenerhetykiv Street said,: “There were five men. … They were all beaten up. There was one who had been shot in the leg; another one had a broken rib. We heard screams [of people being beaten] all day and night. People would be screaming at 3 a.m. and in the evenings. … They didn’t give medical help to anyone.”
Russian guards also humiliated detainees by forcing them to shout pro-Russian slogans, listen to and sing the Russian national anthem and patriotic songs, and applaud the singers, under threat of beatings.
Most relatives interviewed said they were provided no information about the location of their loved ones, which is required by the international law of occupation. Many desperately searched and attempted to deliver packages of food and other essentials without knowing whether they reached the intended recipient.
Detainees and families said that Russian occupying authorities took them and their loved ones into custody for engaging in actual or suspected volunteer activities, providing or expressing support for Ukrainian forces or the government, or for being a veteran of the 2014 Ukrainian security force operations in the Donbas region.
One woman said that Russian forces detained her because they could not locate her husband, and held her hostage until he gave himself up the next day.
When the Ukrainian military retook Kherson in November 2022, Russian forces retreating to the left bank of the Dnipro River took along some detained civilians without fundamental protections, and unlawfully transferred them. These included three men whose family members Human Rights Watch interviewed. Two were released but not allowed to leave still-occupied areas. The Russians also unlawfully transferred and forcibly disappeared a detained activist from Kherson to Simferopol, in Russian-occupied Crimea. Russian authorities have not provided information on her whereabouts and have detained her incommunicado without access to a lawyer.
Ukrainian authorities have been investigating cases of unlawful detention, torture, and other mistreatment in Kherson and the surrounding region during the Russian occupation. Eugen Tereshenko, a prosecutor with the war crimes unit for the Khersonska region, estimates that there were 4,000 to 5,000 registered cases of civilians detained during this period, but the actual number may have been much higher.
It is a war crime to willfully mistreat, torture, or kill civilians or captured combatants in custody, to willfully cause great suffering or serious injury to body or health, or to carry out unlawful deportations or transfers.
“Five months after Russian forces retreated from Kherson and surrounding areas, we’re still only scratching the surface of their atrocities, and the treatment of all Ukrainian civilians in occupied areas is increasingly alarming,” Gorbunova said. “Russian personnel up the chain of command should be on notice that they will be accountable for every crime they commit.”
For more details on torture in Kherson and accounts from witnesses, please see below.
Torture by Russian Forces in Ukraine
Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, other human rights organizations, and the media have widely reported on Russian military forces’ use of torture and other ill-treatment, as well as summary executions and enforced disappearances, against civilians and captured combatants in their custody, in areas under Russian occupation. Typically, the full extent of Russian abuses, which amount to war crimes, is not known until after the withdrawal of Russian forces from the area, and even then, the information is incomplete.
In July, Human Rights Watch published a report based on interviews with people from the Russia-occupied Khersonska and Zaporizska regions of Ukraine, including Kherson, Melitopol, Berdyansk, Skadovsk, and other cities and towns. At that time, Human Rights Watch documented 42 cases in which Russian forces either forcibly disappeared civilians or otherwise held them arbitrarily, in some cases incommunicado, and tortured many of them.
Since Russian forces retreated from Kherson in November, Human Rights Watch conducted additional research into the detention facilities located in Temporary Detention Isolator No. 1, at 3 Teploenerhetykiv Street, at the municipal administration building, at a village school, and at an airport hangar. One person said that her cellmate was held at a detention facility on at 10 Perekopska Street. None of the people interviewed were given any documentation regarding their detention.
The accounts below are based on interviews Human Rights Watch conducted either by phone or in person in Kyiv between November 21 and December 30 after an initial visit to Kherson in November. The names of one interviewee and their detained family member have been withheld at their request, to protect their safety. Some others are identified only by their first name for the same reason.
Abusive Detention of Civilians
Several people said that Russian forces who came to search their homes or arrest them beat, kicked, and used other unnecessary force against the person taken into custody and their family members.
A woman who lives in a village near Kherson said that soldiers came looking for a relative “Valentyn” [not his real name], who was not at home: “The Russian soldiers started to beat my husband right on the street and demanded that he call [Valentyn]. [My husband] is 59, has cancer, and is very weak. They struck him in the chest three or four times with the butts of their automatic rifles, and in the arm. He fell.”
The man being sought returned home and was immediately detained. His wife got a taxi and followed the car holding her husband as it drove to the detention facility on Teploenerhetykiv Street.
In another case, about 10 Russian soldiers, some wearing balaclavas, entered the home of Serhiy Ihnativ, 47, in the village of Zelenivka, on the outskirts of Kherson, on April 20, searched his home, and beat and detained him. Stas, the 20-year-old boyfriend of Ihnativ’s daughter, was there at the time and said that Ihnativ’s head was severely bruised and bleeding. Then some of the soldiers beat Stas. In a telephone interview, Stas said, “They started to beat me on the legs, on my ankle bone, and I fell. They said, ‘We’re going to rape your girlfriend in front of you, and cut your balls off.’”
The soldiers put Ihnativ, Stas, and Stas’ brother, who was also visiting, in a military vehicle and drove off. Along the way, the soldiers let the two younger men out of the car, without explanation. “The last time I saw him, in that vehicle, he sat there as if in a fog,” Stas said of Ihnativ. “It was clear that something was wrong with his head, probably a concussion.”
The family filed appeals with the police and prosecutors’ offices. At some point the occupation authority commandant’s office told Ihnativ’s wife that he was in prison. His family has had no information about him since then.
Torture at Detention Facility on Teploenerhetykiv Street
Human Rights Watch documented the following cases of torture and other ill-treatment at the Temporary Detention Facility No.1, on at 3 Teploenerhetykiv Street in Kherson. This is not an exhaustive list of mistreatments at the facility.
A young man who said he was detained with Valentyn on May 24 told Valentyn’s relative that Russian forces had beaten Valentyn, as they did all detainees in the first hours and days of their detention at the pretrial facility on Teploenerhetykiv Street. The Russian guards typically placed hats or bags on the heads of the new arrivals, tortured them with electroshock and beat them until they lost consciousness. The guards then returned the detainee to their cell and poured water on them until they regained consciousness. The young man also said that the guards had forced Valentyn to stand all night with his arms above his head and beat him when he lowered them.
After nearly four months, Russian forces transferred Valentyn to another cell, and then, when they retreated to the left bank of the Dnipro River, took him with them. His relative said that Valentyn remained in detention in occupied Chaplynka, Khersonska region, in a basement at 46 Hrushevskogo Street until late December. A family member traveled to the facility to deliver food and when she asked about Valentyn, the Russian soldiers only said, “What, you want to go join him?” At the end of December, Valentyn was released without explanation, but is not permitted to leave occupied Chaplynka.
Serhii Chornousov, 41, a physical education teacher at the Chornobaivka Lyceum, a secondary school, and a local council member, lived in Chornobaivka on the outskirts of Kherson with his wife, Svitlana, and their three daughters. Soon after Russia’s full-scale invasion, he participated in a local “people’s guard,” an unarmed force of about 100 volunteers who patrolled Chornobaivka and surrounding areas to prevent looting and who provided utility and building repairs in the village. He also helped people flee Kherson, driving them to Odesa, and returning with medicine.
On June 8, three men wearing black T-shirts and jeans and introducing themselves as agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB, in the Russian acronym), detained Chornousov and took him to the Kherson airport, in Chornobaivka. In a telephone interview, Chornousov said that Russian soldiers beat and tortured him there:
They strip- searched me for tattoos, and had me face the wall completely naked. They put a knife to my genitals – - held it between my legs. They stabbed me once below my buttocks. I still have scars. … That went on for three3 to three-and-a-half 3½ hours. Then they put a pistol to back of my head and said, “If you are Orthodox, pray!” After that they shot twice [into the air].
After several hours, Russian soldiers took Chornousov to the Kherson municipal administration building, where they had set up a military commandant’s office. They held him in a cell in the building’s basement and tortured him again in the evening. “At night they took me out of the cell and handcuffed my hands behind my back,” he said. “They started to beat me. They bruised [the areas around] my kidney, ribs, and arms. They tortured me with electric shocks for about 20 minutes. One clip on my ear and one on my right little finger.”
On June 10, Chornousov was transferred to Teploenerhetykiv Street, where he remained until July 12 and was repeatedly interrogated. He was not physically tortured there but shared a cell with several men who had been tortured.
Among his cellmates was another detainee named Serhii, in his 40s, from Tekstylne village. Chornousov said that Russian personnel had tortured Serhii and then brought him into the cell, beat him, and that he believes Serhii died as a result:
He just crawled into the cell. Then four or five people ran into the cell and continued to beat him. They beat him for 10 minutes, right under the bunk. … He started making these sounds [that one makes] when there is not enough air. He was struggling to breathe. I think his ribs had been broken.
Chornousov tried to get Serhii medical attention:
I started shouting for an ambulance. They [Russian military personnel] came in, gave me a bucket and a wet towel, said to put it on his head. After another [few] minutes, I started to shout again, “He’s dying, call a doctor!” … Then they came in with a stretcher and carried him out.
Chornousov presumed that Serhii died. The next day, Chornousov said, the deputy head of the detention center came to Chornousov’s cell and said, “‘Do you want to live? … We’ll come in the morning. Write what we say.’” Chornousov’s captors had previously interrogated him. After this incident, he complied with the demand. He said, “I made up the story they wanted to hear from me based on their previous questions about my biography, connections to the Ukrainian military, secret services, territorial defense, et cetera.”
Chornousov described the treatment of three other cellmates. Anatolii, an active member of Ukraine’s military forces, was a prisoner-of-war brought to Chornousov’s cell at the temporary detention facility and remained there until late June. Chornousov said Anatolii described the torture to him: “They [Russian military] cut open his shorts, so there was access to his genitals. They connected an electric current to his scrotum.”
Another cellmate was from Izium. “They beat him for about 40 minutes, so hard that a rubber stick broke,” Chornousov said. “He could barely walk. I spoon-fed him [in our cell]. … [W]e also had one guy who had spent two weeks in solitary [in a cell]. He [told us] they [did not give him any food and] made him starve.”
According to Chornousov, about 120 detainees were in the facility when he was released. He said that there were two cells with women, he believed from ages 18 to 60. “I could hear the use of physical force [against them],” he said.
Svitlana, Chornousov’s wife, said that she had virtually no information about her husband’s whereabouts during his detention. Initially she went every other day to the military commander’s office, which involved three hours of driving and waiting for five hours in line, only to be told, “We will call you. Wait.” Or “We don’t know. Wait.”
Two weeks after Chornousov’s initial detention, an investigator told her that her husband was alive and in Kherson, although he did not specify where. Shortly thereafter, a former acquaintance who worked near the Teploenerhetykiv Street detention facility confirmed to her that her husband was there.
On July 6, 2022, Russian security forces detained Roman Baklazhov, who owned a small furniture business, at his home in Kherson and held him for 54 days in the pretrial detention facility on Teploenerhetykiv Street where they repeatedly tortured him. Baklazhov said that he believes he was detained in connection with his participation for six months in 2014 with Right Sector, an ultra-nationalist group. He said that six people came to detain him; judging by their clothing, he believes four were from the Russian National Guard and two from the FSB.
Baklazhov’s captors questioned him four times. In the first interrogation, they used electric shocks:
They placed electrodes on my ear and between my fourth finger and my pinky. It lasted for two hours, with breaks. I sat on a stool. They demanded information about … activists in 2014. … In the interrogations after that they … threatened to kill me. They’d say, for example, “We’re going to take you away, shoot you, and no one will find you.” … They also said, “Now we’re going to put an electrode on your dick and electrocute you.”
Baklazhov said that the guards and the interrogators openly used their call signs: “Hermes,” “Yandex,” “Mueller,” and “Kuzmich.” “Yandex” questioned him the most.
He described seeing other detained people who were severely beaten and received no medical attention.
Baklazhov said that his captors gave him and the other detainees one portion of hot cereal, water, and juice daily, and occasionally cookies, weak tea, or stale bread. They slept on bunks with no mattresses. Russian forces released him on August 29 without explanation and without any documentation of his detention. “My condition is really bad, both psychologically and physically,” Baklazhov said. “I need rehabilitation.”
Oleksandr, 53, an electrician, had stayed in the village of Snihurivka, in Mykolaivska region, to support his 83-year-old mother who refused to evacuate, even after his family had left. Twice a day he went to visit her on his scooter. On one trip, on September 12, Russian security forces, who wore uniforms with OMON – --the Russian acronym for riot police – —stopped him at a checkpoint.
They searched his home, then accused him of being a look-out for the Ukrainian military, put a bag over his head, and detained him alone overnight in a dark basement somewhere in the village. In a telephone interview from Snihurivka, he said,: “They started with questions, beatings, using the electroshock. They asked me about politics, and about what I had been doing. My ribs were beaten. My rib cage ached. None of the Russians cared how I was doing. …[M]edicines – -- they didn’t give me any.”
The next day they again put a hood on Oleksandr and took him to the detention facility on Teploenerhetykiv Street. They placed him in a cell designed for four people with seven other men from Kherson, three of them over 60. The day before his release, he witnessed Russian personnel beating another detainee. He said that he spent a week in the hospital after his release: “After the beating my ribs, my chest hurt. I couldn’t lie down, I couldn’t stand.”
Olha Strohan, Oleksandr Strohan
On August 10, four armed men, two in black uniforms and two in military camouflage, all wearing masks, came to the home of Olha and Oleksandr Strohan, both 53, in Chornobaivka, looking for Oleksandr, who was not at home. After waiting for a few hours, the Russian forces detained Olha, telling her that they were going to hold her until her husband turned himself in. They forced her to wear a wool hat that covered her face, despite very hot weather, and took her to the detention facility on Teploenerhetykiv Street. She said in a telephone interview that she sat there for 40 minutes and that someone hit her under her shoulder blades and grabbed her by the neck when she tried to look around.
Olha began to feel sick and had difficulty breathing in the heat with her face fully covered by the hat. As personnel walked Olha through the building, she tripped and fell, and soldiers hit and kicked her several times. They placed her in a 2.5-meter by 3-meter cell with two bunks with five other women, some of whom had been there for up to 25 days. Once they placed Olha in the cell, her captors allowed her to remove the hat.
Olha described seeing Russian guards take one woman, Ira, out of the cell to interrogate her, and when they returned Ira to the cell, her face and head were bruised, and she had blood coming out of her ear. They forced all of the women to shout pro-Russian slogans such as “Glory to Putin!”, sing Russian songs, and applaud the singers, under threat of beatings.
Russian forces released Olha on August 11 after her husband returned home from a trip and Russian forces detained him. “We saw each other only briefly,” she said. “The Russians said, ‘Say goodbye. You won’t see him again.’”
The next day, a man identifying himself as “Dima Elbrus,” of the Russian FSB, called Olha and put Oleksandr on the phone. He asked her to bring him his phone. Afraid that there might be information on the phone harmful to her husband, Olha claimed she could not find it. Then she heard punches and feared Oleksandr was being beaten. “He screamed terribly,” she said. She then rushed the phone to the pretrial detention facility on Teploenerhetykiv Street.
For a month, Olha had no information about her husband, but eventually learned from “Elbrus” that they had charged Oleksandr with “organizing a terrorist operation.” She also learned from his former cellmates that Russian forces tortured Oleksandr and others with electroshocks by putting a wet shirt on them, placing an electrode on one nipple and another electrode on his scrotum, and then forcing another detainee sitting behind a partition to turn on the electricity. They also beat detainees with sticks.
Former detainees who shared a cell with Oleksandr told Olha that the Russian captors would interrogate Oleksandr every other day for about two hours, and that those in the cell could hear him screaming wildly. After one interrogation he was spitting blood in the cell and showed bruises from a beating on a previously injured leg, they said.
On October 18, when Olha went to deliver a package to Oleksandr, she learned that Russian troops who retreated from Kherson had taken some detainees with them, first to the town of Oleshky, which has remained under their control. For many weeks, Olha did not know where he was. She eventually heard from a former cellmate that Oleksandr was moved to Kalanchak, about 85 kilometers south of Kherson, and was being held in a small cell with 10 other men.
One former detainee who was in Kalanchak said that detainees received only one bottle of cold water and a packet of dried noodles to eat each day. Oleksandr’'s daughter told Human Rights Watch that as the family tried to search for him, at one point a Russian investigator said that they could secure his release by paying a large sum of money, which the family does not have.
Leonid Remyga, 68, the chief doctor at the Afansii and Olha Tropyny Kherson Municipal Clinical Hospital, said that starting in early March 2022, he had resisted pressure from Russian occupying forces to cooperate, including by demanding that the hospital cease contact with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and the National Health Service of Ukraine.
Armed soldiers first attempted to detain Remyga at the hospital in early July, accusing him of passing information about Russian troop locations to the Ukrainian security services. After they threatened to remove him from his position, detain, and mistreat him, he had a small stroke, was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit, and received treatment there as he had difficulty walking.
During that time, Russian security personnel demanded that hospital staff tell them when Remyga was to be released. He escaped from the hospital and lived in hiding for several weeks.
After luring Remyga to a meeting, Russian forces detained him on September 20 and took him to the pretrial detention facility on Teploenerhetykiv Teploenergetikiv Street, where they held him for eight days:
They beat me with a stick on my legs, arms, and body. They used electroshock on me one time, in my armpit. One time, they took us all out of the cells and forced us to squat for a long time. If someone moved, they got a blow to the head.
There were eight of us in a cell for four people. The conditions were inhuman. Every day we could hear torture, we could hear screams.
The worst was when we were forced to sing the Russian national anthem. We had to stand at attention and yell, “Glory to Russia!” … When someone sang … we had to clap for him. If we didn’t applaud [loudly enough], they’d take us from our cell and beat us again.
Remyga believed that he had been detained for his refusal to collaborate with Russian forces and for his openly pro-Ukraine position. He also stated that when they detained him, officials used an electronic device to scan his photograph and photographs on his phone to determine if he had been involved in any protests, going back to 2014. Russian forces released Remyga on September 28, without providing any documentation of his detention, and told him not to leave Kherson.
Eugen Rodionov, 44, was the deputy head of the Chornobaivka village council. When Russian forces occupied the area, he continued to ensure the village had functioning utilities, garbage collection, humanitarian assistance, and security to prevent looting. On May 2, Russian security personnel wearing olive-green uniforms detained and questioned him in the village council office and tried to pressure him to cooperate with them. When he refused, they handcuffed him, covered his eyes with a hat, and took him to the pretrial detention facility on Teploenerhetykiv Street. He was not physically harmed, but heard the screams of others:
There was no physical pressure, but they put me under a lot of psychological pressure to cooperate. It was hell. When you don’t know what is happening outside the detention center, you have no information. Only the sounds of interrogations. Mostly in the evenings and at night I heard screams. It seemed like they were using electricity.
He said he saw men ages 18 to 50 or 60 among the detainees as well as two women. Rodionov was released on May 14 and quickly fled Chornobaivka for western Ukraine, fearing for his safety.
Unlawful Transfer, Torture at Simferopol Detention Facility
In May, Russian soldiers detained Iryna Horobtsova, 38, at her apartment in Kherson where she lived with her parents, who are in their 70s. After aggressively searching the apartment, they took Horobtsova along with laptop computers, cellphones, and a power bank. Horobtsova’'s parents began searching for her immediately but received no information from local officials.
Daria, a woman who was held with Horobtsova in a pretrial detention facility in Simferopol for three weeks in September, said that Russian security forces had transferred Horobtsova there shortly after detaining her in Kherson. Daria, who is identified only by her first name for her safety, described seeing Horobtsova after she had been in solitary confinement in a cell for three months:
Her condition was bad. Her first question to me was, “Can I give you a hug?” Then I told her, “You are like an open wound that isn’t healing.” And that was then, more than two months ago. She was despondent ... she just sat and cried all the time.
Daria said that Horobtsova told her that her detention had been harsh. Russian security forces transferred her with a hat pulled down over her eyes. During her interrogation, two weeks after being detained, they set up an automatic rifle in front of her and threatened to burn her with a clothes iron if she didn’t “tell them everything.” The facility guards never allowed Horobtsova or Daria out of the 6-by-2 meter cell for walks. There was a camera monitoring the cell at all times. “We heard them [the male detainees] screaming horribly at night and during the day,” Daria said.
Horobtsova’s family hired a lawyer in Simferopol in August. The lawyer sent numerous requests to several Russian ministries and agencies and received contradictory answers about her whereabouts. Ultimately, he learned that she was being held for “resisting” Russia’s “special military operation.” He went to the pretrial detention facility twice to try to meet with Horobtsova as her legal representative, but was refused entry.
Her sister said that during the Russian occupation of Kherson, Horobtsova had participated in protests against the Russian occupation, volunteered to support others in the community with food and rides, and posted pro-Ukrainian content on social media.
Torture at School in Bialiavika
On March 11, 2022, Russian soldiers detained Serhiy Urodlivichenko, 47, while he was working in a greenhouse in the town of Liubimovka because he did not have his identity documents with him. They first held him at a corn farm and after approximately three weeks, took him and others to a school in Biliaivka, a city about 120 kilometers northeast of Kherson. Urodlivichenko was eventually held with 10 other men, ages 23 to 69, in a small, dark, small, 2-by-3 meter storage room. The detainees made a hole in an old sewer pipe to use as a toilet. Their captors gave them very little food and did not allow them to contact relatives. Urodlivichenko heard other detainees being beaten and witnessed the deaths of two of them:
We heard screams, as if someone was being beaten. Then he was thrown into the cell with us with his hands tied. … He screamed loudly to be untied. He was beaten and said something about electroshock. We realized he was the farmer Oleh Kovalyuk from Miroliubovka. He died after 20 minutes. We called the guards and said that he had died. …. They took the body away the next day. That is, his body lay in the cell for a day.
Another detainee was taken away for three days and returned. After another three days he died. He said he was [held] in some blue [airline] hangar and was well fed. He said that he was injected with something. After that he died.
Urodlivichenko said that other men brought to the cell had been beaten with rifle butts, punched, and kicked and had their heads covered in bags. Detainees received little to no medical treatment and were not told about the reasons for their detention, he said.
International Legal Obligations
All parties to the armed conflict in Ukraine are obligated to abide by international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, and customary international law. International human rights law, including notably both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, is also applicable.
The Fourth Geneva Convention, which addresses the responsibilities of an occupying power, permits the internment or assigned residence of civilians only for “imperative reasons of security.” This must be carried out in accordance with a regular procedure permissible under international humanitarian law. Protections include the right to contest the basis for detention, access to counsel and family members, and humane treatment at all times.
The ban against torture and other ill-treatment is one of the most fundamental prohibitions in international humanitarian and human rights law. No exceptional circumstances can justify torture. Anyone deprived of liberty must be provided with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. The Geneva Conventions specifically require parties to a conflict to permit access by the International Committee of the Red Cross to detained civilians and prisoners -of -war.
It is a war crime to willfully mistreat, torture, or kill civilians or captured combatants in custody, to willfully cause great suffering or serious injury to body or health, or to carry out unlawful deportations or transfers. Commanders of forces who knew or had reason to know about such crimes but did not attempt to stop them or punish those responsible are criminally liable for war crimes as a matter of command responsibility.
Russia and Ukraine have obligations under the Geneva Conventions to investigate alleged war crimes committed by their forces or on their territory and appropriately prosecute those responsible. Victims of abuse and their families should receive prompt and adequate redress.