Tilbage 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) has published today the report on its most recent periodic visit to Ukraine in October 2013. This document has been made public at the request of the Ukrainian authorities.
The main objective of the visit was to re-examine the situation of persons held by law enforcement officials as well as that of remand prisoners, in particular in the light of the provisions of the new Code of Criminal Procedure which entered into force in November 2012. For this purpose, the delegation paid visits to a number of police and penitentiary establishments in Kyiv, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Dnipropetrovsk Region, Odessa Region and Vinnytsia Region. The treatment of sentenced prisoners at Correctional Colony No. 81 in Stryzhavka (Vinnytsia Region) was also reviewed. Further, the delegation carried out a first-time visit to Prison No. 3 in Krivyi Rih (Dnipropetrovsk Region), which held various categories of inmate, including remand prisoners.


Outline of the CPT’s main findings during the 2013 periodic visit and action proposed

The new Code of Criminal Procedure, since its entry into force in November 2012, together with the setting-up of a new free legal aid system, has begun to show its potential to combat the phenomenon of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. The delegation’s findings clearly indicate that persons apprehended by police officers after the entry into force of the new Code run a lower risk of being ill-treated than those who had been detained prior to that date. However, that risk remains high for detained persons who are not co-operative in the eyes of law enforcement officials and/or, in the regions in particular, refuse to pay bribes. It also appears that persons held by law enforcement officials outside the capital are even more likely to be subjected to severe ill-treatment/torture.

Combating this phenomenon should be more than ever a top priority for the Ukrainian authorities, which should build upon their initial, limited but encouraging results to implement all the Committee’s relevant recommendations and reduce the gap between the legal framework and practice. In particular, the authorities should drive change from the highest level and develop an ethical culture among police officers, ensure better identification of law enforcement officials, review limits and improve training on the use of physical force and “special means”, reduce reliance on confessional evidence and improve interviewing standards, combat unrecorded detentions, guarantee an effective right of notification of custody, improve the practical operation of the right of access to a lawyer and guarantee an effective right to be examined by a doctor.

Prison matters
A marked improvement was noted in the treatment of prisoners by prison staff – or by fellow inmates at the instigation of staff – at Correctional Colony No. 81 in Stryzhavka. During its previous visit to this establishment in December 2012, the CPT had found that the ill-treatment of inmates was common practice. However, the delegation did come across a few instances of alleged ill-treatment of inmates by staff and/or other prisoners in that colony and in some pre-trial establishments (SIZOs) visited.

The situation observed at Prison No. 3 in Krivyi Rih was of grave concern. The delegation heard numerous allegations and gathered other evidence that the establishment’s staff used a group of inmates to physically ill-treat other prisoners. The purpose of this ill-treatment was apparently not only to maintain strict order and discipline, but also to obtain from the inmates concerned confessions to (additional) crimes they were suspected of having committed before imprisonment. This led the Committee to conclude that changes in the manner in which prisoners are treated should remain one of the highest priorities for the Ukrainian prosecuting and prison authorities.

As regards the long-standing issue of overcrowding in SIZOs, a major decrease in the number of inmates was observed, mostly as a result of the adoption/entry into force of the new Code of Criminal Procedure and a wider use of alternatives to imprisonment. Localised overcrowding seen in all the SIZOs visited is a clear reminder that efforts should be pursued in this area. Further, the Committee has noted that no decisive action had been taken to upgrade material conditions in most of the SIZOs visited or to introduce programmes of out-of-cell activities for adult remand prisoners. In the CPT’s view, the cumulative effect of these conditions and restrictions could well be considered, for many remand prisoners, as a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. In its report, the Committee has made a series of recommendations to address this issue.

The situation of male prisoners facing/sentenced to life imprisonment, which was the subject of severe criticism in the past, remains basically unchanged. The CPT has called upon the Ukrainian authorities to review once more the legislation and practice as regards this category of inmate, in the light of its previous recommendations.

* * *

Possible intimidatory or retaliatory action against prisoners prior to, during and after CPT visits

When setting in motion, in March 2013, the procedure under Article 10, paragraph 2, of the Convention establishing the CPT,* the Committee formed the hope that the Ukrainian authorities would do their utmost to stamp out any practices involving possible intimidatory or retaliatory action against persons deprived of their liberty prior to, during and after visits to penitentiary and other establishments. In the light of the information at its disposal, the CPT was not convinced that all the necessary steps have so far been taken by the authorities to stamp out – once and for all – such practices. Consequently, the Committee has decided to keep open the procedure. In its report, the CPT has urged the Ukrainian authorities to take further action, notably by reviewing the manner in which inquiries into this matter are carried out and by considering making any type of sanction, intimidation, reprisal and other prejudice against any person deprived of his or her liberty for seeking to communicate or having communicated with the CPT (or any other body active in preventing and combating torture and other forms of ill-treatment) a specific criminal offence.

The CPT has requested the Ukrainian authorities to provide within six months a response giving a full account of action taken to implement its recommendations.
The Committee has also requested information every two months (until the end of 2014) on the results of future inquiries into possible intimidatory or retaliatory action against (former) prisoners held, at the time of the 2012 and 2013 visits, in Correctional Colonies No. 25 in Kharkiv and No. 81 in Stryzhavka as well as in Prison No. 3 in Krivyi Rih, and a detailed account of concrete steps taken to obtain these results.


*              Article 10, paragraph 2, of the Convention reads as follows: “If the Party fails to co-operate or refuses to improve the situation in the light of the Committee's recommendations, the Committee may decide, after the Party has had an opportunity to make known its views, by a majority of two-thirds of its members to make a public statement on the matter.”

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