Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group present the results of a 3-year program “Campaign against Torture and Ill-treatment in Ukraine”
On 26 June 1987 the UN Convention against Torture came into force.
22 June this year marked another significant event –the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT)..
On 26 June 2006 - International Day in Support of Victims of Torture - in the UNIAN press centre, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KhPG) held a press conference to present the results of a 3-year program - “Campaign against Torture and Ill-treatment in Ukraine”
Among the participants were:
Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of KhPG, Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Co-Chair of the Public Council for the Observance of Human Rights,
Arkady Bushchenko, lawyer, coordinator of KHPG campaigns, member of the Public Council for the Observance of Human Rights,;
Oleh Martynenko, Police Colonel, Candidate of Law, Professor of the Department of Criminal Law of the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, Author of the work: “Determination and the prevention of crime among personnel of internal affairs agencies in Ukraine”
Ivan Yukhymenko, victim of police torture.
The participants gave their assessment of the situation in the country and discussed future plans for combating torture and ill-treatment in Ukraine.
KhPG also reported on its work on prevention of torture and ill-treatment, which has been a focus of its attention since 1996. Over the years KhPG and its partners have endeavoured to draw public attention to the problem of torture in Ukraine and to get the authorities to recognize that there is a problem. From 2003-2006 KhPG, with the financial support of the European Commission, the Open Society Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy and other international donors, ran a nationwide Campaign against Torture and Ill-treatment in Ukraine, which united the efforts of many organizations in the fight against this evil, including: the Kharkiv Institute of Social Research, the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, and about 30 nongovernmental human rights organizations from all regions of Ukraine.
The campaign included: the following interrelated activities:
- monitoring the situation, sociological and legal research, awareness-raising in society and legislative work;
- strategic law suits in national and international courts;
- training courses for professionals working in the area of criminal justice (judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers) and for members of NGOs.
The participants mentioned that in the course of the Campaign sociological and criminological research had been undertaken into the reasons and prevalence of torture in our country. Analysis of the problem of torture was carried out which was reflected in the books “Illegal violence in law enforcement agencies”, “Analysis of compliance of Ukrainian legislation and practices to standards and recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and many other publications. An educational and methodological course “Police and human rights” had been created to be used in the Ministry of Internal Affairs educational system.
During the campaign much effort had been taken to prevent the adoption of the new Criminal Procedure Code which perpetuates a legal system promoting the use of torture. In addition several draft laws were drawn up, for example, on access to information and court consideration of whether to remand in custody or release pending trial. The participants of the program managed to bring Article 127 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine into line with Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture.
With the assistance of the Fund for Professional Assistance to Victims of Torture more than 100 people received competent legal aid. The Fund also supported financially the preparation of claims to the European Court on behalf of 57 people. During the project the case Afanasyev v. Ukraine was won in the European Court. In its decision the Court found that the claimant had suffered ill-treatment while being held in a district police station and that his complaints had not been investigated properly. By now one more claim relating to police torture has been accepted, and in 7 other cases the Court is in communication with the Ukrainian Government.
In the framework of the campaign 10 two-day seminars for judges were carried out, 12 two-day seminars for law enforcement officers and 12 two-day training sessions for lawyers during which European and international standards of work in the sphere of criminal proceedings were studied in detail.
It was pointed out that torture in Ukraine remains widespread. According to research, the roots of the problem lie in many institutions and traditions of Ukrainian criminal proceedings. One such reason is the solved crime figures putting pressure on officers to get results, the lack of a system of efficient investigation, great number of latent detentions, bad access to lawyers and doctors, etc.
The participants noted the changes in attitude of the authorities to these problems and greater readiness of the state to cooperate in this sphere. In particular, the work of mobile groups has started in the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as public councils under the MIA and its regional departments.
Yet, at the same time attention was drawn to the insufficiently systematic actions and lack of respect for human rights by the state.
Representatives of KhPG pointed out that their further work would be directed at creating a national system for the prevention of torture and ill- treatment. This involved the creation of a state program with measures for implementation of such a system. On the other side the efficiency of this system demanded active participation of civic society in its creation and work.
Stress was placed on the enormous importance of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) for the creation of an efficient national system for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment.
More detailed information on these problems can be found at:: www.khpg.org