eyeWitness to Atrocities and partners highlight new evidence of reported coercive policies and practices in relation to health care in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Photo of the Kherson city Clinical Hospital on 18 March 2023. - Image captured using the eyeWitness to Atrocities app.

A new case study jointly published by eyeWitness to Atrocities  founded by the International Bar Association (IBA) – and partners highlights reports of less visible attacks inflicted on civilian populations and health care professionals in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine.

The new case study, ‘Coercion and Control: Ukraine’s Health Care System Under Russian Occupation’ – conducted by eyeWitness to Atrocities, Insecurity Insight, Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) – examines reports that health care workers have been detained, civilians forced to change their nationality as a condition of accessing health care and health facilities have been repurposed by Russian forces for nonmedical purposes; all of which compromise civilians' right to health and endanger access to essential health care.

Based on the dataset jointly maintained by these independent organisations there have been at least:

  • 16 reported incidents in which a health facility, including a former children’s hospital, was repurposed for nonmedical use – including as a military base, to store weapons or to otherwise plan military action;
  • 34 reported incidents where civilian patients were forcibly evicted from health care facilities or denied access to health care and the facilities were then reportedly repurposed for the use of wounded soldiers;
  • 23 reported incidents where medical supplies were requisitioned by Russian forces;
  • 15 reported incidents of ‘passportisation’, or denying medical care to people without a Russian passport or coercing civilians into obtaining one to access health care; and
  • 68 health care workers who were detained in 17 separate incidents.

‘The case study highlights reports of challenging conditions faced by civilians and health care workers in Russian-occupied territories,’ said Carrie Bowker, director of eyeWitness to Atrocities. ‘The reported incidents are deeply concerning and underscore the urgent need for thorough investigation by prosecutors.’

This case study follows a February 2023 report by eyeWitness and partners, showing how Russian forces appear to be violating international criminal law by targeting Ukraine’s health care system as part of a broader attack on its civilian population and infrastructure.

The eyeWitness to Atrocities App has been used in Ukraine since 2017 to gather verifiable photo and video footage of potential violations of human rights and international criminal law. Following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, app users have captured more than 40,000 pieces of footage documenting attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health care systems. At the moment of capture, the eyeWitness app embeds the footage with the metadata required to demonstrate authenticity, allowing the footage to be relied on by investigators and to be used in court. Then, when an app user sends footage to the eyeWitness server it is stored in a secure LexisNexis® repository in a way that guarantees the chain of custody. 

‘We have mounting evidence that Russia's attacks on the Ukrainian civilian population are a deliberate policy. I greatly appreciate the profound work of the International Bar Association’s - founded eyeWitness to Atrocities, Physicians for Human Rights, Insecurity Insight, and Media Initiative for Human Rights’, stated Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Andriy Kostin on X, formerly known as Twitter, on 13 December 2023. ‘Their research, "Coercion and Control: Ukraine's Health Care System under Russian Occupation," provides invaluable data for our criminal proceedings and global efforts to end impunity for Russia's international crimes.’

Dr Mark Ellis, eyeWitness board member and IBA Executive Director, said: ‘This new case study serves as a stark reminder of the deep and troubling impact of attacks on health care in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine. The eyeWitness to Atrocities app has proven to be an invaluable tool in documenting and preserving evidence of such attacks.  I am pleased to note that Ukraine's Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, has expressed his support for the data highlighted in the case study as it relates to criminal proceedings and efforts to end impunity for international crimes.’

In addition to other accountability initiatives in relation to Ukraine, eyeWitness to Atrocities and partners filed a joint submission ahead of Russia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) focused on international humanitarian and human rights law concerns relating to health care since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Useful links:
    • Click here for the eyeWitness Ukraine - Resources Hub.
    • Click here to download the eyeWitness to Atrocities camera app.
  2. About eyeWitness
    Founded by the International Bar Association in 2015, eyeWitness to Atrocities (eyeWitness) helps human rights defenders around the world capture and use verifiable photos and videos for justice. As well as providing the specialist eyeWitness to Atrocities camera app, eyeWitness also offers training on photo and video documentation, legal expertise and links to key investigative bodies such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. All these services are free. By combining law with technology, eyeWitness ensures that images are not only verifiable, but that they can be used to hold perpetrators accountable in courts of law.
    Find eyeWitness to Atrocities on social media here:
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  4. Find the IBA on social media here:

For further information, please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association

5 Chancery Lane
London WC2A 1LG
United Kingdom

Mobile: +31 (0) 70 737 0686
Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7842 0094
Main Office: +44 (0)20 7842 0090
Fax: +44 (0)20 7842 0091

Email: romana.daniel@int-bar.org
Email: IBApressoffice@int-bar.org
Website: www.ibanet.org

Valmira Gkioni
Communications Coordinator
eyeWitness to Atrocities

Email: media@eyewitness.global

Website page link for this news release:
Short link:
Full link: www.ibanet.org/eyeWitness-to-Atrocities-and-partners-highlight-new-evidence-of-reported-coercive-policies-and-practices-in-relation-to-health-care-in-Russian-occupied-territories-of-Ukraine