The Observers

Rights groups 'strongly condemn' public humiliation of looters in Ukraine

Videos shared online have showed people in Ukraine being "punished" for looting by being tied up to poles and trees.
Videos shared online have showed people in Ukraine being "punished" for looting by being tied up to poles and trees. © Observers

As the war rages on in Ukraine, general chaos and a lack of police presence have led to an uptick in thefts and looting. Some everyday citizens have taken it upon themselves to punish looters for their crimes, often by tying them up to poles or trees in an act of public humiliation. While some people in Ukraine – and even authorities – support the practice, rights groups have condemned it as illegal and unacceptable. 

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The FRANCE 24 Obervers team was able to verify 17 separate videos, each of which showed one or several people tied up in punishment. Taped or wrapped to street signs or trees, these accused criminals sometimes had messages attached to them or were stripped and beaten. 

It is believed that these citizen "arrests" have happened spontaneously, without any official orders from authorities. However, some public officials have come out in support of the practice. 

'Many policemen joined the army and territorial defence forces'

We spoke to Tetiana Pechonchyk, director of the ZMINA Human Rights Centre:

People are in despair. There is a huge bloodshed. Many locals were forced to flee their homes. So in the situation where there were not enough police on the spot – because many policemen joined the army and territorial defence forces – the local residents, if they see cases of looting and robberies in their cities, they try to stop it by force.

ZMINA and other NGOs wrote a joint statement to call upon citizens to turn over looters to law enforcement agencies. The statement also implored law enforcement to put a stop to these extrajudicial punishments and urged public officials to avoid justifying them. 

From the legal perspective, it is important to understand that if there are looters, and if there is no police on the spot, people can detain those alleged perpetrators, so they would not flee. And we also were watching cases where these people were humiliated or tortured, there were cases of inhumane treatment to them. And this is strongly condemned.