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Russia’s War in Ukraine: Filtration and Forced Relocation of Civilians Constitute Gross Violations of International Law

In a joint effort with The American Bar Association Center for Human Rights (ABA/CHR) and The Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), Free Russia Foundation (FRF) is proud to announce the release of this comprehensive report

September 2023

In a joint effort with The American Bar Association Center for Human Rights (ABA/CHR) and The Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), Free Russia Foundation (FRF) is proud to announce the release of the comprehensive report «Russia’s War in Ukraine: Filtration and Forced Relocation of Civilians Constitute Gross Violations of International Law.»

This document sheds light on the crimes against humanity committed by the Russian military and its proxies since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, particularly the practice of «filtration» camps, where Ukrainian civilians are subjected to identity checks, fingerprinting, interrogations, and forced transfers to Russian-occupied territories or the Russian Federation. The Russian government is further exploiting these transfers within its propaganda machine to fuel a range of disinformation.

Ukraine’s civil society, supported by international partners, has undertaken the challenging task of documenting and countering these war crimes, as detailed in this report. The report takes a deep dive into the aftermath of Russia’s full-scale invasion and exposes the horrific conditions, forced transfers, and deportations suffered by Ukrainian civilians. It analyzes these crimes through the lenses of international humanitarian law, international criminal law, and human rights standards.

The report is organized into four primary chapters:

  1. Deprivation of Liberty and Arbitrary Detention
  2. Torture and other Cruel or Inhumane Treatment
  3. Deportations and Forced Transfers
  4. Rights Violations Specific to Children

Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, stressed the importance of accountability, stating: «We believe it is crucial to hold those responsible accountable for the various crimes committed as part of the ongoing Russian conflict in Ukraine. Our foundation initiated an effort to investigate and gather information about specific cases, aiming to provide a clearer understanding of the situation. This work began in 2014, and last year, we established the Poshuk-Polon initiative to assist in locating and returning prisoners of war and civilians forcibly transferred from Ukraine to Russia. We have received thousands of inquiries from Ukrainians seeking help in finding their loved ones. Whether it’s leadership crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or forcible transfers, we remain committed to seeking justice for the victims.»

Vladimir Zhbankov, Head of Legal Aid Programs at Free Russia Foundation, underscored the gravity of the offenses committed against civilians during Russia’s full-scale invasion in Ukraine: «In this collaborative report, we outline a series of ongoing offenses against civilians committed by the aggressor authorities during Russia’s active military involvement in Ukraine. These actions may be classified as crimes against humanity. The contents of this report provide evidence of acts that could be considered international crimes by a competent international court. The authors of the report have also proposed several recommendations to improve the situation for civilians affected by Russian aggression. Among these recommendations is the urgent need to grant international representatives access to detention camps and other facilities used by Russian authorities for the mistreatment of Ukrainian civilians and other violations of human rights.»

The report concludes with actionable recommendations, calling for global support for Ukraine’s investigations and prosecutions of these war crimes.

The international community should increase pressure on Russian authorities to immediately cease these acts of aggression. By sharing this report, you are providing support to civil society groups working to end the conflict and seeking accountability and justice for crimes committed in Ukraine and Russia. These joint efforts demonstrate unity and solidarity among the global community, with a focus on assisting the victims, survivors, and their families. They also reflect our unwavering commitment to pursuing justice and accountability for these grievous violations, no matter where they occur.

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