Responding to the news that occupying Russian authorities have sentenced 33 Ukrainian prisoners of war to jail terms ranging from 27 to 29 years following unlawful trials, Anna Wright, Researcher for Amnesty International, said:
“The captured Ukrainian soldiers stood accused of grave crimes under the Russian Criminal Code, but Russia’s official and sparse description of the soldiers’ alleged ‘war crimes’ suggests they have been prosecuted for merely taking part in the war as part of the Ukrainian armed forces.
“This sentencing by the so-called ‘supreme court’ of the ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ in Russian-occupied Luhansk is unlawful under international humanitarian and human rights law as it has not met the minimum international standards of fairness.
“While there must be accountability for all human rights violations and war crimes committed by either side during the entirety of this conflict, prisoners of war cannot be prosecuted for merely taking part in hostilities. The war crime in this instance is by Russian authorities, who have not given prisoners of war fair and regular trials.
“Russia must respect the rights of captured Ukrainian soldiers and end such sham trials.”
While the Third Geneva Convention states that prisoners of war are protected from prosecution for merely taking part in hostilities, Russia’s official description of the Ukrainian soldiers’ alleged ‘war crimes’ included the use of artillery in the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion resulting in one civilian death, one injury and damage to 42 houses.
Amnesty International has been working to document war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Its outputs published since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion are collated here and its publications are available at www.amnesty.org.au.