BOTH warring sides in eastern Ukraine are perpetrating war crimes almost daily, including torturing prisoners and summarily killing them, rights group Amnesty International rights reported yesterday.
Former captives of both Ukrainian government and separatist forces told Amnesty they faced savage beatings, torture with electric shocks, kicking and stabbings.
Concern about the treatment of prisoners comes as Ukrainian authorities face scrutiny this week for publicly parading two men they said were Russian soldiers captured while fighting alongside separatists.
Hundreds of Ukrainian troops are believed to have been captured by rebel forces in the year-long war that has claimed more than 6,100 lives. Both sides routinely accuse one another of mistreating captives. Under a February peace agreement, all war prisoners had been due for release in early March, but little progress has been achieved.
Amnesty said it interviewed 17 captives of the separatists and another 16 held by government forces for its report.
“In the shadow of eastern Ukraine’s still-smouldering conflict, our on-the-ground research shows that accounts of detainee torture are as commonplace as they are shocking,” Amnesty International representative John Dalhuisen said.
The mistreatment catalogued in the Amnesty report included instances of prisoners being hung from the ceiling, deprived of sleep for days and threatened with death.
“The Ukrainian authorities must investigate all allegations of war crimes and other abuses, open files and collect evidence of abuses by separatist forces and bring to justice all those responsible for perpetrating such heinous acts,” Mr Dalhuisen said.
The group is urging United Nations agencies and experts to visit detention sites in Ukraine to meet those being held by both sides.
Amnesty said the worst abuse tends to occur during the first days of captivity and that groups operating largely outside the chain of command were the most violent.
“The situation on the separatist side is particularly chaotic, with a variety of different groups holding captives in at least a dozen known locations,” Amnesty said.
It identified Ukraine’s Right Sector neo-fascist militia as one of the worst culprits on the pro-government side. “Right Sector has reportedly held dozens of civilian prisoners as hostages, brutally torturing them and extorting large amounts of money from them and their families,” Amnesty said.
It said attempts to get Ukrainian authorities to address complaints over Right Sector have been ignored.
The Ukrainian Security Service said yesterday it was open to dialogue with international rights organisations and would meet Amnesty to discuss the report.
But Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for rebel forces in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, rejected Amnesty’s findings.