Joint Appeal of the Ombudsman and UHHRU on the Construction and Transfer of Penal Institutions and Detention Centers
Joint appeal of the Ombudsman and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union to the Prime Minister of Ukraine and the Minister of Justice of Ukraine
Dear Arsenii Petrovych and Pavlo Dmytrovych!
Reforming of the penitentiary system of Ukraine in accordance with modern international standards is an extremely urgent and important task of today as an increase in the number of human rights violations in the operation of penitentiary institutions has become rampant. As evidenced by practice of the European Court of Human Rights regarding Ukraine as well as by numerous reports of international and domestic human rights organizations and statements of the Ukraine Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights, mistreatment of convicts and persons in custody has become everyday practice in Ukraine.
The most common manifestation of ill-treatment is detention of persons in conditions that do not meet minimum standards of the proper treatment. Herewith, persons held in detention facilities whose guilt has not even been proved by the Court yet are detained in the worst conditions.
In view of the above, we strongly welcome and support the Government’s desire to start reforming the penitentiary system in Ukraine, particularly in terms of taking steps to transfer certain detention centers, which conditions do not meet modern standards, to new buildings.
According to Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 1066-p dd. October 7, 2015 “Some issues of reforming the functioning of penal institutions and detention centers”, the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine was to develop and adopt a plan to liquidate the penal institution of Chernivtsi (No. 33). Also, according to par. 2 of this Decree, the Ministry of Justice was to make suggestions on the feasibility of transfer of some other detention centers, namely, of Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa and Khmelnytskyi, within two months.
Supporting the very idea of building new institutions where detention conditions must meet modern standards of the protection of human rights and freedoms, we would like to draw your attention to two main aspects.
First, the above Decree does not specify the criteria of the proposed institutions selection; therefore, it is unclear why the detention center of Chernivtsi was identified as a priority. As evidenced by the results of the monitoring visit of representatives of the Department of National Preventive Mechanism of the Secretariat of the Ukraine Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights together with public monitors to this institution which took place in November 2015, detention conditions in the detention center of Chernivtsi are among the best ones compared with other similar institutions in Ukraine, including the detention centers in Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa. Thus, for example, the detention center of Dnipropetrovsk, where conditions are far worse than those in the detention center of Chernivtsi, was not even included in the list of priority institutions.
Secondly, the Decree omits the need to build a new detention center in Chernivtsi to replace the existing one. As a result, liquidation of the detention center in Chernivtsi without taking steps to build a new institution will lead to a series of violations of the constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens currently held in this detention center.
– Violation of the right to a fair trial. Investigators will have to travel to other regions to perform investigatory actions. This will lead to a slowdown in the investigation and delays in the whole process and will result in preconditions for the violation of Article 6 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms due to non-compliance with reasonable time limits of investigation and trial;
– Violation of the right to defense. Persons in custody may face the problem of operational involvement of their defense lawyers in criminal proceedings. Defense lawyers, in turn, will have to overcome considerable distances to meet their clients. This will also significantly increase the cost of their services, among other things. As a result, the quality of legal assistance can decrease considerably;
– Violation of the right to family life and contacts with the outside world. Transportation of persons in custody to other regions will create significant inconveniences for their relatives who will also have to go to another region in order to visit their loved ones. This will lead to significant financial and time costs and will adversely affect the support of social contacts of persons in custody in general;
– Creating conditions for cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In case of the need to consider extension of detention in criminal proceedings in the courts of first and appellate instances, separate investigatory actions will require long and tiring transportation of persons in custody. It should also be taken into account that the conditions in most prison trucks do not comply with even minimum standards of proper treatment, as repeatedly stated in the reports of the Ombudsman according to the results of monitoring visits to places of captivity.
Given the above, in the context of the planned reforming of the State Penitentiary Service and with the purpose of proper protection of the constitutional rights and freedoms of persons held in penitentiary institutions, we propose the following measures:
1. To conduct a comprehensive inventory of the detention conditions of convicts and persons in custody with the participation of the experts of non-governmental human rights organizations and representatives of the Secretariat of the Ukraine Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights.
2. To make a list of institutions with the worst detention conditions according to the results of the inventory. To develop a plan of building new institutions, taking into account best practices in the area of protection of the rights and freedoms of convicts and persons in custody and involving leading international and national experts in the process.
3. To provide adequate funding of activities related to the construction of new penitentiary institutions from the state and local budgets, as well as by attracting funds from international donors.
4. Not to allow liquidation of any detention centers until the relevant new institutions are built and commissioned.
Ukraine Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights;
UHHRU Executive Director
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