Ukraine: Upholding the absolute prohibition of torture

Monday, February 28, 2022
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the international community has unanimously called for peace and an immediate cease of hostilities. 

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, have both stressed that international humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld. This is especially crucial for the absolute prohibition of torture. 

Based on our 45 years of work to prevent torture and ill-treatment, we know the risk of being tortured and ill-treated exists in many settings and contexts. However, these risks are heightened in situations of armed conflict, where people can be arrested or detained and tortured both by government and armed groups. 

Ukraine is facing this risk today, as documented by IRCT and OMCT, who denounced the high risk of massive-scale torture if Russian forces occupy the country and target those who resist.

We know prevention is an effective strategy to address systemic challenges and human rights violations. Both Ukraine and Russia are States Parties to the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and must continue to respect  their international commitment  to prevent torture and ill-treatment. 

The preventive approach is based on constructive dialogue, which is essential to build bridges and avoid the escalation of conflict. We hope that such a dialogue can take place between Ukraine and Russia, and lead to a quick end to hostilities and the restoration of peace.  

In these times of crisis, the United Nations play a key role in maintaining peace and preventing further human rights violations. We welcome the urgent debate that will take place in Geneva, as well as the Special General Assembly Session on Ukraine in New York. 

Today, we also express our solidarity with anti-torture and human rights organisations in Ukraine, including the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture established within the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. Our thoughts are with our friends and colleagues with whom we have worked over the past decade to build a torture prevention culture in Ukraine. 

Because together, we can end torture.