Ukrainian man files complaint in Argentina accusing Russia of torture

This is the first time an alleged Ukrainian torture victim pursues justice in Argentine courts

A Ukrainian man who claims he was tortured by Russian officials filed a criminal complaint in  Argentina on Monday. This is the first time an alleged Ukrainian torture victim has filed charges against Russia in the Argentine judiciary.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous and be referred to as “Mr M” for security reasons, is currently in Argentina with members of the organization The Reckoning Project, an international journalism initiative that focuses on documenting war crimes.

Together, they submitted a criminal complaint to the Argentine Federal Judiciary at the Comodoro Py federal courthouse in Buenos Aires City.

The complaint requests the court investigate allegations of torture inflicted against the man by Russian officials and affiliated individuals, according to a press release by The Reckoning Project.

The Argentine court now has to decide if it will accept the complaint, which potentially could take months. Until that time, the filing is not made public.

The statement said that there is evidence that Mr. M was electrocuted by Russians while detained in a Ukrainian town occupied by military forces. It added that the evidence the man provided was corroborated by United Nations findings.

Last year, a United Nations commission of inquiry found that Russia’s use of torture in areas under their control was widespread and systematic. The UN also found a “few cases” of violations committed by Ukrainian forces relating to instances of indiscriminate attacks and ill treatment of Russian detainees.

The experts found that torture was committed mainly in detention centers operated by the Russian authorities and chiefly against people accused of being Ukrainian informants.

“I am one of many. So many other people I know were subjected to even worse treatment,” Mr. M said. “I want to tell the world about our pain. These practices continue to happen in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.”

The Argentine Constitution allows its courts to try international crimes, based on the principle of universal jurisdiction. Among them are crimes against humanity and war crimes, with no distinction of where they took place. 

The release highlighted Argentina’s leading role in in the fight against impunity, both regarding crimes against humanity — specifically torture — committed both in the country and internationally.

“Argentina has created the conditions, in policy and law, for borderless justice. Torture is torture, wherever committed,” said Tsvetelina van Benthem, a University of Oxford legal scholar and Senior Legal Advisor at The Reckoning Project.

During his visit to Buenos Aires, Mr. M met Argentine torture survivors. “In Argentina, I understood that justice is a long path, and it is possible when people unite,” he said. “Because people here understood my pain, I hope the chance for accountability exists.”

“Given that even the United Nations noted that Ukraine faces an enormous caseload and limited resources, we cannot expect one judicial system to be able to deal with that amount of crimes,” said Nataliya Gumenyuk, one of the Ukrainian journalists involved in the initiative. “For us Ukrainians, the Argentine experience of trials is both a call for international support in upholding the rule of law and a hope that justice is possible.”

The Russian defense ministry declined to comment on Monday, according to Reuters. Moscow denies committing war crimes in Ukraine and has dismissed previous International Criminal Court war crimes arrest warrants as part of a biased Western campaign to discredit Russia.

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