Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Ukraine
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today the report on its most recent visit to Ukraine, in November/December 2011, together with the response of the Ukrainian authorities. The main objective of the visit was to examine the treatment of persons detained by the police.
Numerous persons interviewed by the CPT’s delegation, including women and juveniles, alleged that they had been subjected to physical ill-treatment at the time of arrest or during subsequent questioning by police officers. In several cases, the ill-treatment alleged was of such a severity that it could be considered to amount to torture. Moreover, medical evidence consistent with allegations of ill-treatment was gathered. The information at the CPT’s disposal leaves little doubt that the phenomenon of police ill-treatment remains widespread and that persons run a significant risk of being subjected to ill-treatment when they do not rapidly confess to the criminal offence of which they are suspected. The CPT has made a series of recommendations aimed at combating this phenomenon: a clear and firm message of zero tolerance of ill-treatment to be delivered from the highest political level; the role of judges, prosecutors and medical staff in the prevention of ill-treatment by the police to be reinforced; a code of conduct for police interviews to be drawn up; the application of the right to inform a close relative of one’s custody as well of the rights of access to a lawyer and doctor to be guaranteed as from the very outset of custody.
The CPT’s delegation also examined the health care being provided to certain persons held at the Kyiv pre-trial establishment (SIZO) at the time of the visit, including Valeriy Ivashenko*, Yuriy Lutsenko and Yulia Tymoshenko. The Committee has expressed concern about the considerable delays observed in arranging specialised medical examinations for these persons outside the SIZO. The possible need for additional interventions to be explored in a hospital setting is also flagged.
Material conditions of detention were generally satisfactory in the police facilities visited. The CPT also gained a positive impression of the situation in the units for juveniles at the Kyiv and Kharkiv SIZOs; however, conditions of detention were extremely poor in many of the other units of these establishments. Numerous cells were in a poor state of repair and had only very limited access to natural light. In addition, a number of detention units in both of the establishments were severely overcrowded (e.g. at the Kharkiv SIZO, up to 44 prisoners in a cell measuring some 45 m²).
Further, the CPT has called on the authorities to put an immediate end to the practice, observed at the Secure Ward in the Kyiv Municipal Emergency Hospital, of handcuffing patients to hospital beds. The need to respect confidentiality of medical examinations is also emphasised.
In their response, the Ukrainian authorities provide information on steps taken or envisaged to implement the CPT’s recommendations. In particular, they state that the rights of persons in police custody have been reinforced with the adoption of the new Code of Criminal Procedure in April 2012. In addition, all police investigation departments have been instructed to ensure that detained persons effectively benefit from the right of access to a lawyer. As regards prisons, steps are being taken as a matter of priority to refurbish or reconstruct various SIZOs and, in particular, those in Kyiv and Kharkiv. Moreover, instructions have been issued to prohibit the handcuffing of patients to hospital beds and to guarantee the confidentiality of medical examinations as well as of related medical data.
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