Ukraine: human rights are still abused


‘Torture, cruel treatment and restriction of the freedom of expression occur in Ukraine even ten years after she declared independence’, Amnesty International stated in its report ‘Ukraine before the UNO Committee of human rights’.

As Amnesty International Association report, issued by its Ukrainian office, states that on 16-17 October Ukraine will be in the focus of attention of the international community. On Monday in Geneva the UNO Committee of human rights will commence to analyze the report about the achievements of Ukraine in the area of human rights protection. The UNO Committee against torture will analyze the report in the middle of November.

‘These two influential human rights protection organization must convince Ukraine that it is necessary to achieve greater progress in the area of human rights protection’, ‘Ukraine must regard these two events as a well-timed opportunity to grant a higher political priority to the problems of human rights’, declares Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is worried by the fact that persons kept under custody are often imposed to torture and cruel treatment on the side of law-enforcing officers. Victims of torture and cruel treatment suffer from injuries that sometimes cause death.

The detained and arrested are often refused to use legal aid from the very beginning and to inform their relatives about the detention or arrest.

‘It seems doubtful that Ukraine actually fulfills her obligations about human rights protection, Amnesty International states. ‘When the complaints are handed and the criminal cases are started against law-enforcers about applying torture and degrading treatment by them, the investigations are conducted very slowly, they are often careless and fruitless. Many of such investigations are obviously biased’.

Cruel treatment is a routine in the Ukrainian army, where servicemen abuse other servicemen’s rights, and it is regarded as a form of punishment. This is known by officers, and sometimes is applied by them to the younger soldiers (dedovshchina). As a result, young boys are beaten, tormented and sometimes commit suicides or are plainly killed.

During recent years the freedom of expression in Ukraine has been more and more restrained. Editors of independent newspapers and TV companies complain that the authorities often conduct revisions formally connected with tax paying, with checks of sanitary conditions and fire safety. In fact, the obvious purpose of all these checks is to impede their activities.

‘The freedom of the press is sometimes obstructed with open intimidation. Journalists are attacked by strangers, which often ends in death. The circumstances of many of such attacks remain obscure. The guilty are caught and brought to responsibility very infrequently’, Amnesty International declares.

Last year the suspicions that the state may be responsible for the ‘disappearance’ of journalist Georgiy Gongadze and the obvious incapability of the state authorities to conduct a fast and unbiased investigation of this case caused the alarm inside the country and abroad.

Along with Gongadze’s case Amnesty International also mentions the murder of Igor Aleksandrov from the Donetsk oblast, attacks at Vinnitsa journalist Anatoliy Zhuchinski, Cherkassy journalist Valentine Vasylchenko, editor of a Lugansk independent newspaper Mykola Severin and Lutsk journalist Oleg Velichko. The guilty have not be found in all these cases.

Amnesty International notes that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe repeatedly appealed to Ukraine asking to stop the practice of criminal accusations of journalists. The new Criminal Code is expected to introduce changes to this practice. Yet, the conviction of editor Oleg Liashko, which occurred at the eve of the adoption of the new code, testifies how the laws were used to restrict the freedom of speech.

‘Ukraine must guarantee the complete fulfillment of various international obligations on human rights and thus to demonstrate the final break with the past’, Amnesty International states.

Amnesty International hopes that the international attention to these problems will encourage the improvement of the situation. ‘The experience shows that Ukraine positively reacts at the international pressure. Recently Ukraine has abolished the death penalty thus showing the respect to her obligations. And we certainly hope that the Ukrainian government will comprehend that in the course of coming closer to Europe the attention to human rights becomes a necessary condition for the completion of this process’. The Ukrainian government must apply many efforts to improve the state with human rights protection in the country’, Amnesty International adds.

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