Official investigation needed in the State Department for the Execution of Sentences
The Government Committee on Legal Policy, Defence, International Cooperation and European Integration has recommended that the Cabinet of Ministers have an official investigation carried out into the state of affairs in the State Department for the Execution of Sentences. The decision was passed in summing up the Committees meeting held on 26 February.
According to Oleksandr Lavrynovych, Minister of Justice, himself on the Committee, such an investigation is warranted because of the ineffective management of the penal system which led to a sharp fall in law and order in penal institutions during 2005 and 2006.
The Minister said that penal institutions are in a state of crisis which can be seen by the number of highly publicized events (mass self-mutilation and hunger strikes) which took place last year in penal institutions in the Kharkiv, Lviv, Rivne and other regions.
Checks of remand centres [SIZO] carried out by the Prosecutor General during 2005-2006 identified systemic violations of constitutional rights, as well as infringements of legislation regarding the material, medical and sanitary and hygiene conditions in custody. This included overcrowded SIZO, the lack of bed linen, life prisoners being held in SIZO, infringements of the law on fighting tuberculosis and others.
Since 2006 the Prosecutor General has received more than 5.3 thousand protests over violations in the penal system. 4,720 employees of the system have been held to answer, including 68 facing criminal charges.
The Minister stressed that human rights groups and international institutions had also drawn attention to numerous violations. He mentioned in particular the Human Rights Annual Report of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (and Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group), as well as last years report from the EU Expert Mission in Ukraine on Justice, Freedom and Security.
Oleksandr Lavrynovych stressed that this issue is of vital importance for Ukraine not only at state, but at international level.