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UN experts raise ‘widespread’ torture concerns with Russia

GENEVA (Reuters) -A group of U.N. experts said on Thursday they had written to Moscow raising concerns about the use of torture by Russian military forces on Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war.

The U.N. experts said in a statement the torture included electric shocks, hoodings and mock executions and had been carried out to extract intelligence, force confessions or in response to alleged support for Ukraine’s forces.

It had resulted in damage to internal organs, cracked bones and fractures, strokes and psychological traumas, they said.

A spokesperson for Russia’s diplomatic mission in Geneva did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Moscow has previously denied torturing or mistreating prisoners of war and says it does not deliberately target civilians in Ukraine.

While torture allegations have previously been levelled against both sides in the 15-month conflict, the team of U.N. independent experts said Russian forces’ methods may be “state-endorsed”.

The consistency and methods of alleged torture suggested “a level of coordination, planning and organisation, as well as the direct authorisation, deliberate policy or official tolerance from superior authorities”, according to U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Alice Jill Edwards, who sent the letter on 12 June alongside several other independent experts.

“Obeying a superior order or policy direction cannot be invoked as justification for torture, and any individual involved should be promptly investigated and prosecuted by independent authorities,” she said.

Under the U.N. system, a government has 60 days to give a formal response.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Alex Richardson, Alexandra Hudson)

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