HRW accuses Russia of enforced disappearances of Ukrainian civilians

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The NGO Human Right Watch (HRW) has assured this Thursday that Russian troops in Ukraine would have made civilians disappear and would have forcibly and illegally transferred them to Russia.

Specifically, the organization has documented the detention of nine civilians by Russian forces while occupying the Ukrainian region of Kiev for subsequent transfer to detention centers in the Russian regions of Kursk and Bryansk, both on the border with Ukraine.

“Russian forces have illegally transferred these civilians to Russia, subjected them to enforced disappearance and continue to hold them without providing information or access to their families,” said the NGO’s Europe and Central Asia director, Tanya Lokshina.

“The Russian authorities must immediately release and return all Ukrainian civilians detained in Russia and ensure that all persons in their custody who have been detained in or from Ukraine, combatants or civilians, are officially registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),” Lokshina has demanded, arguing that civilians cannot be treated as prisoners of war.

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HRW has stressed that Russian violations committed against detainees include possible illegal internment and hostage-taking, illegal transfer or deportation, and enforced disappearances, which may amount to or involve multiple war crimes.

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission (OHCHR) in Ukraine detailed in a report published in June that it had documented hundreds of cases of arbitrary detention by Russian forces in areas that they, or affiliated armed groups, control in Ukraine.

The report further detailed that many of the detainees were allegedly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and that “an undetermined number of victims were transferred to Russian territory,” among other places, where they were “held in penal institutions, often together with prisoners of war.”

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The UN document also describes “credible reports of torture and other forms of inhumane treatment of prisoners of war interned both on the territory of the Russian Federation and on territory controlled by Russian-affiliated armed groups.

Moreover, the Ukrainian NGO Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR) has claimed to HRW that some of the detainees were transferred to a camp in Naroulia, eastern Belarus, and then taken back to Russia 3 to 10 days later.

“Ukrainian civilians detained by Russian forces not only lose their freedom, but also face a serious risk to their health and lives by being held without legal or public oversight,” Lokshina has argued.

She has also called on Russia to “immediately” reveal the whereabouts of the detainees, and to release all Ukrainian civilians in its custody, detained in previously or currently occupied areas.

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