July 13, 2023, 16:13

Rape threats and psychological abuse – human rights activists report on conditions women kept in occupier’s Kherson torture chambers

When Russia occupied Kherson, its representatives illegally forcibly confined about 30 women in temporary detention center (TDC) No. 1 of the Main Department of the National Police in Kherson region.

ZMINA Human Rights Center activists collected victims and witnesses testimonies, including 10 in-depth interviews. Thus, it was possible to establish what are the conditions in temporary detention centers are, as well as to record cases of torture and inhuman treatment, including threats of sexual violence.

Thus, during the presentation of the report on Ukrainian women detained by Russia within the framework of the country’s main discussion platform BrainHub, Onysiia Syniuk, ZMINA Legal Analyst, reported on specific trends in the number of women detained by Russia and the condition in temporary detention centers they are subject to. 

According to her, special attention was paid to those women, either law enforcement agencies of Ukraine employees, such as the National Police, or who were suspected by Russian representatives of having some connection with the resistance movement in the occupied territories. Accordingly, women were detained to suppress this resistance movement or to obtain information about it.

She noted that Russia representatives held in the conditions detainees in the temporary detention center did not meet the minimum requirements.

“There were three cells where women had to share living space. However, rooms were designed to accommodate two, three people at most. For those who were held there for a short time, sometimes the number of people in one cell reached nine. An average of five women were held in one cell on an ongoing basis,” the analyst explained.

In addition, according to the analyst, the hygiene conditions of inmates in the temporary detention center were terrible. During the first detention period, a bath was not ensured for women at all for about 21 days. Subsequently, a so-called 5-minute per-person shower schedule was introduced. 

Onysiia Synyuk emphasized that the situation with food was similarly unstable. For example, during the first period of detention, meals were given once a day. Later, after the rotation of the Russian military, a certain three-meals-a-day schedule was set, but the food was brought to the detention center in the morning for the whole day, and in the evening, it turned sour. In addition, food was brought to the temporary detention center in insufficient quantities.

According to the analyst, the detainee’s healthcare was not secured. A chiropractor session was only allowed by Russia representatives, as a health professional was also held in the detention facility. Very rarely, an ambulance doctor from the occupied territory came to visit, saying that all those who complained were faking it.

In addition, the ZMINA representative noted that human rights activists managed to document cases of torture. The Russian occupiers used it mainly during interrogations.

“The most common methods of torture were beatings, various types of electric, and waterboarding. Very often, they were combined with each other. The analyst noted that in the context of electric shock, a case of sexualized torture was recorded, in particular, the application of electric current to the chest.

According to Onysiia Synyuk, there is also a pattern of sexualized violence and sexual abuse. Thus, threats and comments about sexual violence were used by the Russian military immediately at the time of detention and later, and they were not concealed at all.

She noted that, according to available data, forced nudity was recorded at the time of detention. Thus, some victims, including three of them, reported that they had to change their clothes in the presence of the Russian military.

In addition, according to the legal analyst, the occupiers threatened the inmates with rape.

“The second case of forced nudity and threats of both rape and gang rape occurred in the detention center itself. One of the women, who was detained by 15 Russian soldiers and brought to the temporary detention center, was surrounded in the corridor, essentially taken in a circle, and began to be searched, pulling up her T-shirt and pulling down her pants. All this was accompanied by comments about rape. This victim was also later threatened with rape threats against her minor daughter, that she would be taken to Crimea,” the legal analyst said.

Onysiia Synyuk also emphasized that in addition to direct violence, the general atmosphere in the detention center is psychological abuse since tortures took place all day and night. One of the women’s cells had a view of the yard where all the detainees were brought and systematically beaten as soon as they arrived. The other cell was located directly above the place where the torture took place, and they could constantly hear what was happening there.

Moreover, Russia representatives practiced torture directly in the cells, in the presence of others, and even opened the doors so everyone could hear the whole thing.

BrainHub is the country’s main discussion platform created by the Media Center Ukraine – Ukrinform. It brings together experts from the state and civil society sectors. BrainHub hosts intellectual discussions around the issues of the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. It’s the birthplace of the best ideas that will become the foundation for the road map of Ukraine’s reconstruction in all sectors: economy, infrastructure, education, agriculture, security, digital, etc.

Read more: https://mediacenter.org.ua/news