What is the fate of prisoners of war?
Whether Russian or Ukrainian, these fighters are protected by one of the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war, remind human rights defenders and experts.
As with any conflict, data in the field is often fragmentary and difficult to verify independently. The number of prisoners of war is no exception. No figures were given at this stage.
Regarding Mariupol, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said: “3,826 prisoners”who’s? “2,439 Ukrainians captured during the surrender of Azovstal” and “1.387 Marine Corps” was taken prisoner before. Rodion Miroshnik, the “Luhansk People’s Republic” ambassador to Moscow, gave the figure on Thursday of 8,000 Ukrainian prisoners for the two separatist regions, according to the TASS agency, “and hundreds more are added to it every day”.
On the Ukrainian side, no Russian prisoners were contacted despite AFP’s requests.
Regarding Azovstal, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “Hundreds of Ukrainian POWs”.
Regular army soldiers fall “in the power of the enemy” It is considered “prisoners of war” defined by condition IIIand The Geneva Convention of 1949, which also applies where war has not been officially declared. This situation is related “Members of the armed forces or militias that are part of those armed forces”, says William Schabas, professor of international law at Middlesex University in London. It continues that prisoners have rights and must be protected, in particular against any acts of violence or intimidation, insults and public curiosity.
However, according to NGOs, some of these rights have been violated since the beginning of the conflict. In March, Human Rights Watch urged Ukraine to stop showing repentant Russian POWs in the media. kyiv’s initiative also got him a call for an order from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). HRW also urged Kiev to explore the potential “war crimes” Following the release of footage showing Ukrainian soldiers shooting themselves in the legs, the Russians are on their way to the prisoners.
More recently, the NGO Amnesty International has been affected by the secrecy of fate. “To the Ukrainian POWs in Azovstal”in the Russian media “in a dehumanizing way” as “neo-Nazis”.
Julia Grignon, a researcher at the Military School Strategic Research Institute (Irsem), underlines that the ICRC’s enrollment process plays a key role in this context. “It’s a guarantee, it means they won’t disappear, because then we can demand accountability. »
Prisoner exchange, which has become common practice, is not subject to international law and takes the form of an over-the-counter agreement. Since the beginning of the occupation, many exchanges of soldiers and civilians have taken place between Ukrainians and Russians without systematic confirmation by the two sides.
- Can they be judged?
“Prisoners of war cannot be prosecuted for participating in war.Underlines the French expert. On the other hand, a lawsuit can be filed against soldiers who are alleged to have committed crimes during the conflict. »
In Ukraine, the first Russian soldier to be tried for war crimes since the start of the operation was sentenced to life in prison for killing a civilian in Kiev on Monday. On the Russian side, the authorities hinted that they would judge the fighters of the Azov regiment as follows. “Nazi criminals”.
“It would not be in accordance with humanitarian law, we cannot call them “Nazis” or “terrorists”, they should be prosecuted for acts they are suspected of committing.according to M.Me too grignon
As for the members of the private Russian company Groupe Wagner, to whom Moscow denies any connection, they can be considered prisoners of war if caught while being recruited into the Russian forces. Experts are considered civilians who would otherwise participate in conflicts and are not eligible for this status.