Conflict-related sexual violence in Donbas: extracts of the UN report

Author : Human Rights United Nations

Source : 112 Ukraine

‘He told me that he will bring my wife and our daughter here; Chechen fighters will rape them in front of me,’ man abducted by armed groups
10:05, 20 February 2017

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The UN says that majorly conflict-related sexual violence took place during the arrest or detention by Russian-backed militants or Ukraine’s forces. Both men and women have been subjected to attacks.

The report suggest such examples: beatings and electric shocks to the genitals, rape and rape threats, forced nudity as a form of torture and ill-treatment for the purpose of punishment, and humiliation. The threats of detaining or abducting, rape, killing of family members, especially children, were used as kinds of pressure. And in the occupied territory of sexual violence was used to compel detainees residents to cede the right to their property or make other demands.

The mission notes that the arrested militants residents, particularly women, have been subjected to high risks of sexual violence. Armed groups usually detain individuals: due to their real or perceived affiliation to or support of Ukrainian forces or pro-Ukrainian stance; for so-called 30-day ‘administrative arrest’ for violation of the curfew or other ‘laws’ they impose or abduct them to extort money or property. OHCHR is also concerned that the armed groups also detain women who are witnesses of crimes that are investigated by ‘police’, which is reportedly done for their ‘protection’.

Related: UN recorded 203 cases of sexual violence in Donbas

According to the report, men were subjected to more violent and prolonged tortures, than women. However, the latter were more at risk of becoming a victim of rape, including group rape. Such abuse took place in the early stages of the conflict in 2014, when each of the gang fighters controlled a certain place of imprisonment. publishes extracts of the reports concerning actions of so-called DPR/LPR militants.

He told me that he will bring my wife and our daughter here; Chechen fighters will rape them in front of me (Man abducted by armed groups)

On 1 July 2014, a group of 10 armed men in camouflage who presented themselves as “samooborona” (“self-defence”) abducted a local entrepreneur from his parents’ home in Donetsk region. 83 At that time the town was under control of armed groups. According to his relatives, members of the armed groups had tried to extort money from the victim before his abduction. He was brought to the basement of the seized building being used as the headquarters of the “NKVD Komendatura” armed group. The perpetrators reportedly invited a notary into the building and forced the victim to rescind ownership to all his property to the leader of the armed group, call-sign “Vasilievich”. When the victim refused to do so, he was told that Chechen fighters would rape his wife and underage daughters in front of him. On the same day, the leader of armed group and an unidentified man stormed into the apartment of the victim’s wife, and threatened her and their underage daughter with a knife and stole all their valuables. They told the women that her husband had been arrested and was sentenced to death for his “refusal to cooperate with the new authorities”.

Related: Lavrov and Mogherini discussed situation in Donbas

Women were raped by at least seven men and beaten, while interrogated about the whereabouts of their money and valuables

On 25 September 2014, in a village in Donetsk region, a woman and two of her colleagues (a man and a woman) were abducted at their workplace by armed men from the “Bezler group”, led by a local resident. They were taken to the seized administrative building of a coal mine in Horlivka, where one of the women saw signs like “Horlivka NKVD” and “Smersh”, referring to the groups using the site. After being “registered” in a journal, the three individuals were informed they were “arrested”. They were taken to another room which was covered in blood. The man was violently beaten in front of the women until he fainted. Then both women were raped by at least seven men and beaten, while interrogated about the whereabouts of their money and valuables. One of the victims was subjected to electroshocks with wires attached to her breast, after which she lost consciousness. She woke up from an injection into her arm. Through the open door, she saw a room full of valuables, among which she recognized some of her belongings. She later found out that while she and her colleagues were being tortured, the armed groups had robbed their houses. For the following 10 days, she was taken for “interrogation” almost every night, and was raped by intoxicated armed group members. One day, the perpetrators brought an attorney and forced the victim to rescind ownership of her apartment and land property to the perpetrators. For the following months she was forced to cook meals for the armed group members and for other people deprived of liberty (both civilians and Ukrainian army soldiers).

Woman was beaten with metal sticks for three hours and raped by several men from the ‘Vostok battalion’

In May 2015, a woman from Donetsk was apprehended by the ‘Vostok battalion’ for violating the curfew. She was intimidated, forced into a car and brought to a place which, she thought, was a police department seized by the armed groups. She was beaten with metal sticks for three hours and raped by several men from the ‘Vostok battalion’ that night. She was released the next day.

Related: EU calls to stop Donbas trade blockade

Mock execution

On 22 May 2014, in Donetsk city, the ‘traffic police’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ detained a woman and a man for rendering assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. She remained deprived of liberty for five days. During her “interrogation”, she was tied to a chair in a painful position, blindfolded and beaten on the head and the legs, including with a blunt object she could not identify. She was subjected to a mock execution twice. During one of the nights, a group of men dressed in camouflage entered her cell and attempted to gang rape her. They ran out of the cell as another detainee was reportedly trying to hang himself in the neighboring cell. She believed he did it to save her after hearing her screams and pleas.

Militants extinguished cigarette butts against woman’s wrist, and threatened the life of her child and mother

On 22 July 2014, in Luhansk region, a woman who was delivering food and clothes to the Ukrainian forces with three other male volunteers was detained at a checkpoint manned by the ‘Cossacks’ Union’ of the ‘All-Great Don Army’. During the first two weeks of her detention, she and others were interrogated and tortured by Cossacks in an unidentified location. The woman was severely beaten with rifle butts and bullet proof vests until she lost consciousness. She was handcuffed throughout. As a result, four of her ribs were fractured, and her nose and most of her teeth were broken. She was forced to watch as two men were beaten to death. During further interrogation, perpetrators were reportedly extinguishing cigarette butts against her wrist, and threatening the life of her child and mother. She did not receive food or water for the first few days. After two weeks she was transferred to another building which had cells, with approximately 60 people held there at a time. While she was kept alone in a cell, the doors were always open. Often, at 2 a.m. the guards would organize a “roll-call” of the detainees and randomly beat whoever they wanted. At the end of summer 2014, during one such “roll-calls”, three guards entered her cell, attacked her and starting ripping her clothes off, attempting to rape her. She pleaded with them to stop and asked them to kill her, as she would otherwise commit suicide afterwards. From what she remembers, another guard told the attackers to stop.

Related: Russia to send another four “humanitarian convoys" to Donbas

The militants were trying to rape a pregnant woman

On 12 June 2015, three armed men in civilian clothes who presented themselves as agents of the ‘ministry of state security’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ detained a 22-year-old woman with a disability and her mother at their home. They were brought into the seized building of the Donetsk Administrative Appeal Court. The young woman was accused of being a “Ukrainian sniper” and was subjected to over six hours of questioning. Her mother was also questioned for a few hours but later released. Although the victim was five-month pregnant, she was transferred to the premises of the “Isoliatsia” art exhibition space and museum - seized and used for military purposes by the armed groups - until she would be “re-educated and started loving the [‘Donetsk people’s republic’]”. She was kept there for almost a month, in a small (1m by 0.8m) room without windows, with a two-deck shelf  instead of a bed. The perpetrators switched the light on and off at will. She was disoriented and did not know the time of the day. She was given neither water nor food for a few days. One night the guards took her outside while it was raining, saying that they would kill her. They started kicking her, including on her stomach so that her “Ukrop [derogatory term used for Ukrainians] baby would not be born”. During that night she survived five such beatings. She also reported that her guards were trying to rape her; however she persuaded them not to, claiming she had a sexually transmittable disease. On 25 July 2015, as a condition for her release, she was forced to give interviews to Russian and Donetsk media outlets and to claim she had been working for the “Tornado” patrol police company and the Right Sector but had joined the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’.

Related: Ukraine demands to add cases of sexual abuse in occupied Crimea and Donbas into the scope of UN

In 2016, OHCHR was able to document emblematic cases of sexual violence at checkpoints run by Government entities. In March 2016, three women who were driving to Toretsk (Donetsk region) to receive humanitarian aid were stopped at a checkpoint controlled by the ‘Aidar’ battalion. The commander refused to let the car pass because the husband of one of the women was on an SBU wanted list. He seized her passport and phone. The commander then sat in the car close to the woman and put his hand on her lap, saying the issue could be easily resolved. When the victim refused, the commander called over armed men in camouflage without insignia, who drove the women to the nearest police station. Unable to explain the grounds for their detention upon demand of the victims, police released the women several hours later.

Related: Foreign Ministry: OSCE report confirms rude violation of human rights in Donbas by Russia

A woman arrested on 19 January 2015 by 10 masked men wearing camouflage uniforms, was kept for more than a week in the basement of an SBU building, where she was beaten and tortured with electric shocks and burning plastic. The perpetrators threatened to rape her daughter if she refused to confess of having supported the armed groups in 2014.

The chief of ‘military police’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ informed OHCHR that in summer 2014, in Torez, a member of an armed group reportedly raped a local resident, while the same time he placed a grenade in her mouth. Reportedly members of the local armed group caught and detained the alleged perpetrator and the ‘general prosecutor’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ opened a ‘criminal case’. OHCHR is not informed of the results.

Related: Ukraine to complement claim to International Court of Justice against Russia due to human rights violations in Avdiivka

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