13.12.2001 | Ludmila Klochko, Kharkov

Parliamentary hearings on how Ukraine observes the UNO Covenant and the Council of Europe demands about torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and punishment


On 4 December 2001 the Committee of the Supreme Rada on human rights, national minorities and interethnic relations held parliamentary hearings on how Ukraine observes the UNO Covenant and the Council of Europe demands about torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and punishment. Representatives of the General Prosecutor’s office, Supreme Court, USS, State penitentiary department, Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, State tax administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as representatives of non-government organizations, which fight with torture, were invited to the hearings. Ombudsperson Nina Karpacheva was also present.

Opening the hearings, G. Udovenko, the head of the committee, pointed out that Ms Karpacheva turned to the Supreme Rada with the application to give the financing for the nourishment of persons detained by militia. The term of detainment may reach 72 hours, and all this time the detainees are not fed. This may be regarded as a torture with hunger. Yet, the committee members decided to consider the question in a broader sense. G. Udovenko referred to the TV feature ’Without taboo’ by Mykola Veresen and to the book ’Against torture. Survey of complaints about cruel treatment and torture’ published by the Kharkov Group for human rights protection. Along with it, G. Udovenko remarked in his introductory speech that the work over the new Criminal-Procedural Code is still lasting, so the discussion of the legal opportunities of protection from torture and cruel treatment may not appear superfluous. Nina Karpacheva told that during the events of 9 March all district militia precincts of Kyiv were overcrowded, people from other towns of Ukraine could be found among the detainees. According to the observations of the ombudsperson, 25 thousand persons were detained in 2000 for longer than 24 hours. All these people did not get nourishment during their detainment. Such attitude may be regarded as a torture. In the Ministry of Interior they explained to us that the budget does not envisage the expenditures for feeding the detained. That is why Nina Karpacheva turned to the Supreme Rada during the discussion of the budget. She demanded to introduce the expenditures as a separate line. The government agreed to increase the financing of militia. Unfortunately, the budget will not specify for which purpose is this money intended, so the Counting chamber will have to control how this money will be spent.

Besides, Nina Karpacheva pointed out that the situation in Ukraine concerning torture is very disturbing.

MP M. Gutsal told that militia treats brutally not only common people. So, militia beat him, an MP, and his deputy’s ID was taken away and still not returned.

O. Ptashinskiy, the deputy head of the Penitentiary department, told in detail about the state of affairs in his agency. He informed that after the amnesty of 30 thousand convicts the number of those, who remained in penitentiaries equals 193.5 thousand. This number is in compliance with the norms. Yet, as Mr. Ptashinskiy said, courts continue to convict too many people with incarceration. Thus, this year 53.3 thousand persons were convicted, among them 8 thousand got the terms up to one year, and 59% got the terms up to 3 years. O. Ptashinskiy also told about rendering medical aid in penitentiaries. He told that there exist 21 hospital, which render qualified medical aid to convicts. It should be remarked that among the convict there are 4200 persons sick with TB, who acutely need treatment.

I. Zhilka, a representative of a prosecutor’s office, told that during 10 months of the current year the prosecutor’s office released 137 persons, which were detained illegally, 3300 orders were issued about violations of laws and 4461 persons were brought to disciplinary responsibility for these violations.

V. Zubchuk, the first deputy of the State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, complained that financing militia in the budget draft is only 26.3% of the needed sum, in spite of the fact that 122 thousand of crimes and felonies are registered annually.

V. Khristich, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointed out that it becomes more and more difficult to endorse the positive image of Ukraine abroad.

There were many speeches, in which MPs and representatives of NGOs, mass media gave examples of torture and cruel treatment. They remarked that, in spite of under-financing, militia does not need money to stop beating the detained. It was also said much about the ignorance of the public, concealment of the facts of torture and the reaction of state structures to these facts. The openness in these questions will not bring shame on Ukraine in the world public opinion, but, on the contrary, will add to her authority.

The Kharkov Group for human rights protection prepared a package of documents for all participants of the hearings. The package contained the books ’Against torture. Survey of complaints…’ and ’Observance of human rights in Ukraine in 2000’ (the report of the Bureau of democracy, human rights and labor of the USA State Department concerning the practices in the sphere of human rights in the country with the comments by the Kharkov Group), as well as the text of the fourth periodical report of Ukraine about the fulfillment of the UNO Covenant against torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and punishment, the comments by the Kharkov Group for human rights protection to this report, conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against torture concerning the 3rd and 4th reports of Ukraine. It appeared that MPs have not known the contents of the fourth report and the conclusions concerning it. The MPs were indignant that they got these documents from an NGO and not from the Ministry of Justice. An official from the Ministry of Justice told in his emotional speech that the report was published on the UNO site, besides everybody willing could familiarize with it by addressing the Ministry.

As to the hearings as such, we want to understand what it really was: pre-election activities of MPs, as state officers suspect, a consecutive reaction of power structures to the UNO Committee conclusions, as MPs suspect, or the actual start of fighting for the European face of Ukraine.

It is worth adding that after the parliamentary hearings representatives of the Kharkiv USS directorate appeared in the Kharkov Group and asked to be given 30 copies of the book ’Against torture. Survey of complaints…’ They explained that they needed these books for oblast directorates, which must, according to the order from Kyiv, check the facts described in the book. We shall hope that it will be done not for refuting ’the slander’, but for starting the real fight.

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