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Vladimir Putin’s hellish torture chambers in Kherson are just the “tip of the iceberg” a leading human rights lawyer has claimed.
Kherson was recaptured by Ukrainian forces from Russian invaders in November 2022, with traces of torture and abuse found littered around the city.
Speaking to the Daily Star, Wayne Jordash KC, a Ukranian war crimes specialist and managing partner at Global Rights Compliance explained how investigations were now already underway.
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Part of the Global Rights Compliance’s Mobile Justice Team, a group of legal experts on the ground in Ukraine assisting in the gathering of evidence of war crimes, he said the torture chambers were part of a bid to wipe away Ukrainian identity.
“These crimes are part of the Kremlin’s wider pursuit of a criminal plan to extinguish Ukrainian identity, seemingly by any means necessary,” he said.
Mr Jordash explained that the two main things being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) were the “abduction of children and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.”
Russia, he added, had been deploying tactics to instil Russian values in local populations.
“They then focus on detaining, torturing and killing any Ukrainian that might pose a threat to this plan, including local leaders, journalists, human rights activists, volunteers,” Mr Jordash said.
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“Thereafter, the remaining population is constantly interrogated and ‘filtrated’ before having Russian imperialistic culture forced upon them.
“It is more Orwellian than Orwell’s famous 1984 novel.”
He explained how Kherson was full of the signs of these actions, most chillingly perhaps, the discovery of many torture chambers in the region.
“These were run by Russian Federal Security Services (FSB), local Kherson FSB and the Russian Prison Service and were functioning at all localities, including both highly organised detention facilities (like former pre-trial detention centres or prisons) but also ordinary residential houses, offices and basements across the city of Kherson.”
Describing the hardships that people in the chambers suffered, he said: “Statements received from over 1,000 torture chamber survivors in Kherson shows that physical beatings, sexual violence, electric shock torture and waterboarding were among the criminal acts used against Ukrainian women and men held in Kherson, part of an effort to eliminate resistance to the occupation.
“Pro-Russian slogans, poems and songs were discovered on cell walls, which prisoners were forced to learn and recite.
“More than 400 people are also reported to have vanished from Kherson torture centres and it remains unknown whether they have been killed or taken to Russian-held territory.”
But while the chambers offer a very chilling, tangible landmark in the discovery of the horror, Mr Jordash explained how they were likely only part of the plan.
“The torture centres are the tip of the iceberg in Russia’s inherently criminal plan to subjugate or destroy Ukrainians.
“They are designed to eliminate and destroy large parts of the Ukrainian population in order to enable the remainder to be enslaved and ‘re-educated’.”
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