Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) presented the study “Total impunity in ATO area: investigation of killings and disappearances”
Human rights activists have named a number of problems that hinder public authorities to conduct effective investigation of incidents of death and missing of soldiers. They have also suggested ways out of this situation.
Inconsistency of Data as for the Exact Number of Dead and Missing Soldiers
– At the hearings in the parliamentary committee for health care in December of 2014, it was stated that 1,275 persons of the Armed Forces of Ukraine died in ATO area; 1,667 were considered missing in action;
– In his speech on TV channel “112” on June 14, 2015, speaker of the General Staff, Vladislav Seleznev said 289 soldiers were considered missing in action;
– In his statement dated July 28, 2015, Chief of the Civil-Military Cooperation Agency of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Aleksey Nozdrachov said that more than 2,300 military personnel of the AFU were considered killed and 273 servicemen – missing in action;
– In his interview on August 14, 2015, Advisor to the Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) Yuri Tandit said that during the time of the ATO in eastern Ukraine 846 people had been reported missing in action;
– In his speech on November 17, 2015, Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Ivan Varchenko at the round table “Lost Victims of the Armed Conflict: Creating a National System for Search and Identification of Missing Military Personnel and Civilians in the ATO Area” said the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine (MIAU) had registered 3,900 missing citizens, the fate of 2,900 of them being installed. We know nothing about 1,518 missing persons, out of which 967 were reported missing and 542 were stolen.
Responsibility for Investigations
In Ukraine, there are three bodies responsible for investigating cases of murder and missing in action of Ukrainian military in the ATO area (SSU, MIA, Military Prosecutor’s Office). Each of them has its own powers, but a single goal: disclosure of the crime and the prosecution of perpetrators. However the lack of consistency in the procedural steps and effective cooperation between the three agencies does not lead to tangible results. In the near future power to investigate is expected to be given to the Agency for Investigation of Crimes against Peace and Security of Mankind and International Crimes attached to the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine, the efficiency of which is also under reasonable doubt.
Problems with Investigation of the Deaths of Soldiers
In the framework of criminal proceedings the responsible investigators typically do not conduct interrogation of witnesses, do not restore the picture of events, and for the purpose of information exchange do not get in contact with the military units that send fighters to the ATO area.
Identification of corpse is used as a basis for terminating the criminal proceedings (there is no corpus delicti), that is why the cause and circumstances of death remain uninvestigated. So the persons who committed the crime remain unpunished.
Problems with Investigation of Incidents of the Servicemen that had been Reported Missing in Action
Investigation is carried out under the mechanism provided for disappearances in peacetime; law enforcement agencies do not request information from military units that had sent the servicemen to assignments to the ATO area.
At present there is no uniform system of accounting for the missing. Consequently, there are no clear statistics on missing and established persons. Every law enforcement agency has diverse information, which does not permit to form a list of names of missing persons in the ATO area.
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