Russian occupiers tortured Ukrainians so brutally that some of their victims died, and forced families to listen as they raped women next door, members of a UN-mandated investigative body said on Monday, in their latest findings from the field.
Erik Møse, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva his team had “collected further evidence indicating that the use of torture by Russian armed forces in areas under their control has been widespread and systematic”.
“In some cases, torture was inflicted with such brutality that it caused the death of the victim,” he said.
“Russian soldiers raped and committed sexual violence against women of ages ranging from 19 to 83 years” in occupied parts of Kherson province, he said.
Frequently, family were kept next door and forced to hear the violations, he added.
Russia denies committing atrocities or targeting civilians in Ukraine. Møse said the commissions attempts to communicate with Russia had gone unanswered. Moscow was given an opportunity to respond to the allegations at the council hearing but no Russian representative attended. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked at a later press briefing about the number of torture cases resulting in death, commission member Pablo de Greiff said it was impossible to know due to restricted access, but that it was a “fairly large number and...it comes from very different regions across the country, close and far from the lines of battle”.
In August and September, Møse’s commission visited parts of Ukraine formerly held by Russian forces such as in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. It found that torture was committed mainly in detention centres operated by the Russian authorities and chiefly against people accused of being Ukrainian informants.
The commission has previously said that violations committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, including the use of torture, may constitute crimes against humanity.
The UN body also found a “few cases” of violations committed by Ukrainian forces, Møse said, saying they related to instances of indiscriminate attacks and ill treatment of Russian detainees. Kyiv has previously said it checks all information regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and will investigate any violations and take appropriate legal action.
The commission was mandated by the council in March 2022 to investigate abuses in Ukraine since the war began and has visited multiple times and conducted hundreds of interviews. Sometimes evidence gathered by UN-mandated probes is used for national and international trials, including war crimes cases.