"Surviving hell" in Eastern Ukraine
A wide network of places of illegal detention in Donbass.
Prison Insider’s correspondents in Ukraine shared several materials describing the conditions of detention in the Donbas region, in the East of the country. It is composed of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Due to the crisis which started in 2014, Ukraine is divided between the so-called pro Europeans from the West of the country and the so-called pro-Russians from the East.
The following text is the executive summary of the report “Surviving hell” written by the Coalition Justice for Peace in Donbas. The Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives, the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and the Centre for Civil Liberties figure among its members.
The creation of LPR and DPR pseudostates with repressive political regimes led to numerous gross and systemic violations of human rights in different spheres on the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Establishment of a network of illegal detention places by these regimes led to violations of fundamental human rights, including the right to life, the right to be free from torture and cruel treatment, the right to liberty and personal security, and the right to fair trial. This report examines this phenomenon based on the data collected through interviews with 150 former detainees of these places, as well as other information from open sources.
The research findings serve as compelling evidence of an extremely widespread and barely controlled network of illegal places of detention in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Testimonies of victims of illegal detention point to a dangerously high probability of being put into these places for virtually all target groups, including civic activists, ordinary citizens, representatives of public authorities, businessmen, and prisoners of war.
Detention in these illegal custodial facilities of the so-called DPR and LPR is accompanied with assaults, mutilations, and torture of detainees on the scale that calls for the use of not only the domestic but also international justice mechanisms.
At the same time, the results unveil a range of important issues to be examined in further studies.
First, these include issues related to identification, recording and regular inspection of all places of detention in the ATO area by international organizations. These actions are necessary for preventing violations of humanitarian law and the standards of treatment of detainees.
Second, there is a problem with assessing the damages incurred by the citizens in the ATO area during illegal apprehensions and arrests, use of force and psychological pressure, as well as torture. This issue is connected to the need for planning and establishing the national system of psychological and social support for former civilian captives and prisoners of war. The system requires involvement of qualified professionals, budgetary funds, and a significant amount of time.
Equally significant – in the view of international law – is the issue of documentation of war crimes and violations of human rights during the conflict in Donbas. Documentation requires a rather complex system of coordinated action of authorities and civil society for the collection and processing of obtained testimonies, protection of information and personal data, constant accumulation of information sources, as well as the preparation of evidence for domestic and international justice authorities.
The above issues became clear following examination of data from a small part of victims in the framework of our study. We have no doubt that attention from the international expert community will lead to finding solutions to these issues. Our project team expresses hope for this outcome and welcomes the cooperation of international foundations and institutions, international organizations and individual experts, and Ukrainian authorities.