Ombudsman to UN: Trying to equate Ukraine with russia is a harm in itself

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On June 27, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report “Detentions of civilians in the context of the armed attack by the russian Federation against Ukraine”, in which russia and Ukraine are named as parties violating international humanitarian law, Dmytro Lubinets, the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights, writes.


In my opinion, the described violations by the Ukrainian side regarding the detention of civilians are questionable and require confirmation. For example, OHCHR writes that they have documented 75 cases of “arbitrary” detention by Ukrainian security authorities of persons suspected of committing criminal crimes related to the conflict. However, they do not specify what these crimes are, how and when they were detained, and under what circumstances. The testimonies about the ill-treatment and torture of detained civilians also raise doubts.

At the same time, regarding the crimes of the frussian Federation: the report states that the mission documented 864 cases of detention by the russian Federation and 260 cases of detention of civilians on the basis of political views and their statements. They also recorded the detention of 88 men who previously served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but have not been military personnel since February 24, 2022, that is, they are actually civilians.

It is noted that in documented cases, more than 91% of people were subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence.

In addition, the OHCHR is “seriously concerned” by the arbitrary execution of 77 civilians during their imprisonment in the russian Federation, as well as the death of people as a result of torture, inhuman conditions of detention, and denial of medical assistance.

And, of course, it is difficult to bypass that the international organization often uses the definitions – “may constitute” and “probably constitute”, and that they are “concerned” about some crimes. This is surprising again and again, because the crimes of the russian Federation in Ukraine have clear evidence. In addition, I drew attention to the fact that the report does not mention the 20,000 detained civilians that we are talking about on all international platforms!

Finally, the OHCHR acknowledges that the government of Ukraine continues to grant the organization full and confidential access to conflict-related detainees in detention facilities, except in one case. However, they add that despite numerous requests, they did not get access to those detained in the russian Federation. As we observe, apart from requests to the russian Federation, there were no other attempts by the mission to gain access to Ukrainian prisoners in the russian Federation and on the temporarily occupied territories [TOT].

And although the report describes specific violations of the rights of civilians by russia, I consider it unacceptable to accuse Ukraine. At the end of the report, it is added that at all stages the principle of “do no harm” was strictly observed and all appropriate measures were taken to protect individuals and prevent re-traumatization. However, the fact that the victim is equated with the aggressor is a harm in itself.

The authors of the report also provide recommendations to the parties to the conflict. Thus, among them, the russian Federation is to ensure the release of all prisoners for reasons of security of civilians, “immediately after the termination of the existence of the circumstances that justified their imprisonment.” And in the future, ensure that such persons are released without any conditions.

However, it is unlikely that the recommendations will force the russian Federation to do so. I call on organizations to put pressure on the russian Federation not only with reports, but also with specific actions!

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