Incidents of sexual violence as a weapon of war reported in Severodonetsk, Donbas
Today, on 20th December presentation of analytics report titled “War without Rules: Gender-Based Violence in the Context of the Armed Conflict in Eastern Ukraine” took place at Siverskyi Donets Crisis Media Centre.
 
The report was carried out by the Eastern-Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives in cooperation with partner organisations from the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas” and contains an updated information about the number of sexual offenses.
 
The report reveals over 30 identified places of illegal detention and their location details, where prisoners of war and civilians were exposed to sexual violence. According to Volodymyr Shcherbachenko, the Head of Eastern-Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives, this information has become available from personal interviews conducted with victims and witnesses of gender-based violence at the places of illegal detention in Donbas. The report was based on about 170 recorded incidents of sexual violence.
 
“Based on the analysis, we have concluded that every third female person, who was illegally kept in prisons, either became a witness or suffered from sexual violence. Similar incidents involved males. Every fourth civilian or military male either faced or became witness of sexual abuse at the places of illegal detention,” – said Hanna Yanova, analyst of Eastern-Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives.
 
Various types of gender-based violence are mentioned in the report. For instance, there are recorded incidents of domestic violence, caused by demobilized militants. According to Hanna Yanova, one of the former militants in his interview said about “bringing Debaltsevo to his home”. The report also reveals incidents of violence towards LGBTI community. Hanna Yanova pointed out that in the course of the research, it turned out that gays and lesbians faced more violent abuse than others at the places of illegal detentions.
 
“We name the perpetrators, who the interviewed witnesses referred to. They include the names of Zakharchenko and Plotnytskyi. They were aware of the places of illegal detenrion and knew about the incidents of violence. It was in their power to stop this. Instead, violence developed into large-scale crimes. It is our duty to raise awareness of the society as well as law enforcement units to address and investigate these crimes,” – emphasised Volodymyr Shcherbachenko.
 
Another fact that Volodymyr Shcherbachenko pointed out was recorded incidents of gender-based violence from Ukrainian militants and enforcement units. They are considerably fewer though, thanks to acting justice and law enforcement system on the liberated territory.
 
The human rights defenders stated that sexual violence has been used as a weapon of warfare during the armed conflict in Donbas. They have also identified a number of issues related to documenting and investigating of these crimes and suggested recommendations to resolve them.
 
“Those responsible must be brought to punishment for the crimes. This is the only mechanism to counteract, prevent and fight against gender-based violence. This is why Eastern-Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives and the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas” document incidents and keep records of gender-based and sexual violence,” – summed up Hanna Yanova.
 
The present report was prepared with the  support of International Renaissance Foundation.