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16.05.2006

Prisoner protest actions in Ukraine against cruel treatment from penal administrations

   

In the evening of 8 May at the Kharkiv pre-trial detention centre [SIZO] a group of inmates – 21 people, all from one cell,  in protest at the actions of the administration of the SIZO inflicted injuries upon themselves by slashing their forearms and veins with razorblades extracted from safety razors. On 13 May several dozen convicted prisoners (according to some information – around 35 men, to others – 24) serving their sentences in the Lviv penal settlement No. 30 with medium level of security (the former strict regime) did the same thing.  Neither the exact reasons for the men’s actions, nor the extent of their injuries are know. According to the administration of the Kharkiv pre-trial detention centre medical help was not even required, whereas a source in strict confidentiality stated that 12 of the 21 men were still on 10 May in the centre’s medical unit.

At first, both in Kharkiv and in Lviv, representatives of the State Department on Penal Issues tried to cover up the events. Later, when forced to acknowledge that the incidents had taken place, they attempted to play down the number of people involved and gave, in our opinion, extremely unconvincing, explanations for what had happened.  They explained the actions of the men remanded in custody in Kharkiv as their reaction to a tighter regime over the public holidays and to the confiscation of items not allowed to be kept. The Prosecutor of the Kharkiv region, Vasyl Senchuk, stated that his office has already established numerous infringements by the administration of the pre-trial detention centre, and that an investigation is underway. In Lviv the Deputy Prosecutor of the region, Volodymyr Hural, said that the prisoners had been protesting out of solidarity with the Kharkiv inmates, and also against the ban on smoking in the corridors and compulsory physical exercises. Hural added that none of the prisoners would be punished.

At the same time we received information from several confidential sources that both in Kharkiv and in Lviv the inmates had carried out their action in protest against cruel treatment during searches, when the prisoners were beaten and their food supplies destroyed.  The prisoners of penal settlement No. 30 are demanding that representatives of public organizations and journalists be allowed to see them, while the administration is not allowing this. As our sources informed us, in Kharkiv three of the organizers of the protest have been thrown into punishment cells, while in Lviv an instruction has been issued on transferring those who took part in the action to other institutions, on launching criminal cases against them, with an increase in their sentence by a court ruling. We have so far been unable to confirm these reports.

According to unconfirmed information, in the penal settlements No. 53 (strict regime) in the city of Mykolaiv, No. 85 (strict regime) in the town of Buch in the Kyiv region, No. 47 (special regime) in the town of Sokal in the Lviv region mass beatings of inmates took place, carried out during special searches by special enforcement units.

We are concerned that the mass attempts at self-injury (according to some sources – suicide attempts) will not be effectively investigated. We also fear that the prisoners who resorted to such an extreme form of protest in order to attract attention to their position, will be subjected to serious punishment.

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