GENEVA: UN has voiced alarm Tuesday (23rd of August, 2022) at reports that Russia is preparing to prosecute Ukrainian prisoners of war under conditions that could amount to war crimes.
The UN human rights office said it was concerned by images and footage appearing to show metal cages being built in the philharmonic hall in the shattered Ukrainian city of Mariupol, apparently to hold PoWs during proceedings.
“Under international law, individuals entitled to prisoner of war status have combatant immunity and cannot be prosecuted for having participated in hostilities, or for lawful acts of war committed in the course of the armed conflict, even if such acts would otherwise constitute an offence under domestic law,” spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.
“If prisoners of war are charged with crimes, they are entitled to due process and fair trial guarantees. No sentence or punishment may be passed on them unless it is delivered by an impartial and regularly constituted court,” spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasan said.
International humanitarian law prohibits the establishment of courts solely to judge PoWs, and willfully depriving a PoW of the right to a fair and regular trial “amounts to a war crime”, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasan added.
“It would be the Russian Federation that would be responsible if this goes ahead,” she said.
The UN rights office is concerned that PoWs have generally been held without access to independent monitors, exposing them to the risk of being tortured to extract a confession, Shamdasani added.
“We have had reports that have led to our concern that torture may be used in these circumstances,” she said.
“There have also been worrying public statements by Russian officials and members of affiliated armed groups labeling Ukrainian prisoners of war as ‘war criminals’, ‘Nazis’, and ‘terrorists’, thereby undermining the presumption of innocence,” spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasan concluded.
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