The Council of Europe anti-torture Committee (CPT) has published a new report following its ad hoc visit to Ukraine in August 2020 to review the treatment of persons held in penitentiary institutions, including those sentenced to life imprisonment and to examine the action taken by the investigative authorities in relation to complaints of ill-treatment of inmates by prison staff. (see also executive summary of the report)
On a more general note, the CPT welcomes the positive trend towards a reduction in the prison population and encourages the Ukrainian authorities to pursue their penitentiary reform agenda. At the time of the visit, the total number of prisoners in Ukraine stood at approximately 51,000 (*) (i.e. an incarceration rate of some 143 per 100,000 inhabitants), compared to some 57,000 during the CPT’s periodic visit in 2017. Nevertheless, the CPT also noted that the proportion of remand prisoners had remained high in recent years (e.g. some 37% at the time of the visit), which indicates a likely overuse of pre-trial detention in Ukraine. The CPT believes that steps should be taken to ensure a more restrictive approach to the use of remand in custody by setting strict limits on its use and encouraging a greater use of alternative non-custodial measures.
In August 2020, the delegation visited Colonies Nos. 25 and 100 in Kharkiv area that the CPT had visited before, and, for the first time, Colony No. 77 in Berdyansk. The delegation also went to the pre-trial detention facilities (SIZOs) in Kharkiv and Zaporizhia and to Temnivka Prison Hospital No. 100, to interview prisoners transferred from the above-mentioned correctional colonies.
The CPT recommends that the Ukrainian authorities take appropriate measures in the establishments visited to ensure that no prisoner is subjected to retaliatory action by staff or fellow inmates for having spoken with the delegation and that any complaints of such action be effectively investigated and those responsible be punished accordingly. The Committee once again expresses serious misgivings about the practice of employing selected inmates as “duty prisoners”. It stresses that any partial relinquishment of the responsibility for order and security in prisons, which properly falls within the ambit of custodial staff, is unacceptable and calls upon the Ukrainian authorities to take all necessary steps – including of a legislative nature – to put an end to this practice.
(*) Not including the prison populations of the territories that are currently beyond the effective control of the Ukrainian Government (i.e. Crimea and parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions).