Nearly 50% of Ukrainian detainees subjected to torture, including sexual violence, in Kherson detention centres, according to first of its kind ‘Mobile Justice Team’
Evidence uncovered from detention centres in liberated Kherson
Russians Tortured Ukrainians In Kherson
[London, 2 August 2023]: Today, a first of its first-of-its-kind ‘Mobile Justice Team,’ supporting Ukraine’s Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) in the investigation and prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Ukraine, has revealed that nearly 50% of Ukrainians held in Kherson detention centres were subjected to widespread torture including sexual violence, based on reviewed evidence.
The Mobile Justice Team, part of the UK, EU and US-sponsored Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA), was set up by international human rights law firm and foundation, Global Rights Compliance, in April 2022, and is led by world-renowned British Barrister, Wayne Jordash KC. The team’s CRSV work is primarily funded by the EU.
The team is formed of foreign and Ukrainian leading prosecutors, investigators, lawyers and analysts who can rapidly deploy around the country to assist Ukraine’s investigators and prosecutors by advising and supporting the documentation, investigation and prosecution of war crimes, including rape and other sexual crimes.
Since the liberation of the large part of the Kherson Oblast in October 2022, Ukraine’s OPG, with support of Global Rights Compliance’s Mobile Justice Team, has been focusing its investigations on the city and the large number of Ukrainian citizens who were detained and allegedly mistreated in the detention centres during Russian occupation.
Russian Guards Used Sexual Violence As A Common Tactic
The Mobile Justice Team has been supporting the OPG with the analysis of an initial pool of 320 cases of detention in Kherson across more than 35 identified detention centres. Of those victims, at least 43% explicitly mentioned practices of torture in the detention centres, citing sexual violence as a common tactic imposed on them by Russian guards.
At least 36 victims from the pool analysed mentioned the use of electrocution during interrogations, often genital electrocution. Other victims mentioned threats of genital mutilation, and at least one victim was forced to witness the rape of another detainee by a foreign object covered in a condom.
Suffocation, waterboarding, severe beatings and threats of rape were other techniques commonly used against victims by Russian guards in the Kherson torture chambers, according to the specialist unit.
The identification of individual Russian perpetrators is well underway. Corroborated evidence points to one Russian soldier, Oleksandr Naumenko having ordered sexual violence in the form of genital electrocution against 17 separate victims in the Kherson detention centres.
The announcement comes amid mounting concerns that the documented ‘patterns’ of rape and other sexual crimes inflicted on occupied people across Ukraine may speak to a premeditated plan on a systematic level. Sexual violence during conflict may be classified as a war crime, crime against humanity, and a crime of genocide if other necessary elements are satisfied.
Those detained in the Kherson detention centres included military, ex-military, (current and former) law enforcement, volunteers, activists, community leaders, medical workers, and teachers. According to the preliminary analysis by the Mobile Justice Team, it appears that military personnel were most likely to experience torture in the detention centres.
Commenting on the evidence, Wayne Jordash KC, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Global Rights Compliance said: “The torture and sexual violence tactics the Office of the Prosecution is uncovering from the Kherson detention centres suggests that Putin’s plan to extinguish Ukrainian identity includes a range of crimes evocative of genocide.
At the very least, the pattern that we are observing is consistent with a cynical and calculated plan to humiliate and terrorise millions of Ukrainian citizens in order to subjugate them to the diktat of the Kremlin. Together with the OPG, we are committed to investigating these crimes and prosecuting those responsible for these attacks against Ukrainian citizens.”
Anna Mykytenko, Senior Legal Adviser and Ukraine Country Manager, Global Rights Compliance commented: “The true scale of Russia’s war crimes remains unknown, but what we can say for certain is that the psychological consequences of these cruel crimes on Ukrainian people will be engrained in their minds for years to come.
What we are witnessing in Kherson is just the tip of the iceberg in Putin’s barbaric plan to obliterate an entire population. Justice will be served for Ukrainian survivors as we continue our mission to identify and hold perpetrators accountable. Impunity is not an option.”
This news follows an announcement by Global Rights Compliance in February 2023 which revealed evidence uncovering financial records directly linking the torture chambers to the Russian State.
Global Rights Compliance, jointly with a UK Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative expert, have recently started working with a newly established Taskforce of investigators and prosecutors to create a nation-wide set of protocols for investigating and prosecuting conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Ukraine. Using a collaborative and consultative work process, the Taskforce is producing a set of proposed steps and recommendations to strengthen CRSV investigations and prosecutions in an effective and victim/survivor-centric manner, in line with international best practice.
The continuing development of effective Ukrainian conflict-related sexual violence policies and legislation will ensure more perpetrators are brought to account and the largest number of innocent Ukrainian survivors receive the support and see the justice that they deserve.