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Places of detention in occupied Ukraine: new report by DIGNITY, PPU, KHPG, UWT & EPLN

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DIGNITY, Protection for Prisoners of Ukraine (PPU), the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG), Ukraine Without Torture (UBT) and EPLN have joined forces to publish a report on places of detention in areas of Ukraine under Russian occupation.

Based on first-hand information from victims and witnesses of ill treatment or their relatives, open sources, as well as information provided by Ukrainian state authorities, the report documents violations of international law and war crimes committed in prisons, police establishments and social & health care institutions between March and December 2022.


Persons under Russian occupation were exposed to:

  • Torture and other ill-treatment of a physical and psychological nature to obtain confessions and create a climate of fear and obedience towards the Russian occupiers
  • Executions in official and unofficial places of detention
  • Military strikes as the war exposed places of detention to shelling which damaged the infrastructure of the facilities and injured and sometimes killed staff, prisoners or residents of social institutions
  • Harsh conditions of detention as the regular supply of water, electricity and heating was interrupted after the start of the occupation and the Russian occupation forces did not offer a suitable alternative or establish new supply chains

Focus on prisons

Following the rapid advance of Russian armed forces into Ukraine, 11 prisons of South and East Ukraine holding 3103 prisoners were placed under Russian occupation. Under international law, Russia became responsible for the treatment of these prisoners as part of the civilian population under their control, including for ensuring basic necessities.

The report identifies a series of violations of international law:

  • Prisoners endured numerous human rights violations, including killings, torture, ill-treatment, and threats thereof, forced labour, including for military purposes, forced imposition of Russian citizenship, and forced participation in the illegal referenda on Russia’s annexation of the occupied Ukrainian territories
  • Prisoners were kept in detention centres even when these were located in areas of active hostilities or used as Russian military bases, which resulted in injuries and death of prison staff and prisoners.
  • Prisoners were transferred without their consent to other parts of Ukraine under Russian occupation or to Russia, after prisons were transformed into military bases or after living conditions deteriorated in occupied prison

The report, coordinated by Dignity with the assistance of EPLN, is largely based on field evidence collected by the Ukrainian organisations PPU, KHPG and UBT.

This report was produced with the support of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Fondation de France.


Report "Nine circles of hell"
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