Back Council of Europe anti-torture Committee publishes report on Ukraine - Report highlights need for further action to combat ill-treatment of sentenced prisoners

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 December 2012 ad hoc visit to Ukraine, together with the Ukrainian authorities’ response. The main objective of the visit was to re-examine the manner in which prisoners serving sentences were treated in so-called “correctional colonies”.

The CPT’s report indicates that there has been a definite improvement as regards the manner in which inmates are treated by staff in Correctional Colony No. 89 in Dnipropetrovsk, which was first visited by the Committee in 2009. It appears that the action taken to put a stop to the ill-treatment of prisoners observed during the previous visit has started to bear fruit.

Further, the treatment of sentenced women was in general not of major concern at Kachanivska Correctional Colony No. 54 in Kharkiv. That said, as regards the force allegedly used by staff against Yulia Tymoshenko during her transfer to Central Clinical Hospital No. 5 in Kharkiv in April 2012, the report raises doubts as to the effectiveness of the investigation carried out into this case.

In contrast, as regards Oleksiyivska Correctional Colony No. 25 in Kharkiv and Stryzhavska Correctional Colony No. 81, near Vinnytsia, the CPT’s delegation gained the impression that the ill-treatment of inmates had become an almost accepted feature of keeping good order and combating prison subcultures. The means employed by staff, partly assisted by a carefully chosen group of inmates, were apparently aimed at obtaining submissive behaviour from all prisoners as from the outset of their admission. The ill-treatment alleged by persons interviewed who were or had been held at these establishments was often of such severity that it could be considered as amounting to torture.

The CPT has recommended further action to combat ill-treatment of inmates in correctional colonies by: i) driving change from the highest level and developing an ethical culture among prison staff, ii) improving staff-inmate relations (including combating corrupt practices), iii) strengthening the role of health-care staff in the prevention of ill-treatment, iv) better defining limits and improving training on the use of force, v) ensuring the effectiveness of investigations into cases of possible ill-treatment, in particular by setting up without delay a national team specialised in the investigation of such cases, and vi) developing an effective national preventive mechanism.

In its report, the CPT notes that the conditions under which women serving life sentences are held have significantly improved. However, key recommendations made in the past in respect of male life-sentenced prisoners remain to be implemented. In this connection, the Committee opposes the routine installation of videosurveillance cameras in cells accommodating this category of inmate.

During the visit, the CPT’s delegation reviewed the situation of Yulia Tymoshenko. Her material conditions of detention were found to be of a high standard and the provision of health-care to her at Clinical Hospital No. 5 in Kharkiv does not call for particular comments. However, the CPT urges the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that medical confidentiality is respected with regard to Ms Tymoshenko and that the security arrangements concerning her (which, at the time of the visit, included placement under videosurveillance) are no more than what is strictly required by the circumstances.

In their response, the Ukrainian authorities provide information on steps taken to address certain of the urgent matters raised by the CPT in its visit report, in particular the adoption of anti-torture and anti-corruption measures in correctional colonies and other penitentiary establishments, the results obtained by the prosecuting authorities in the examination of alleged ill-treatment of inmates by staff and the development of guidelines on the use of “technical means of surveillance and control” (including videosurveillance). As regards Yulia Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian response refers to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 30 April 2013, in which the Court found no violation of the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The visit report and the response have been made public at the request of the Ukrainian authorities and are available in English (and Ukrainian) on the CPT’s website:

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