Ukraines reports to the UN Committee against Torture must be public
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group believes that Ukraines Fifth Periodic Report to the UN Committee against Torture on its implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment does not fully reflect the changes in legislation and practice over the last three years. The report was prepared at the beginning of 2004 and was not updated before being submitted last year.
At a press conference in Kyiv on 19 December KHPG Co-Chair Yevhen Zakharov stated that the report does not identify problems which exist in this area.
He said that this report as all periodic reports and similar are prepared by government bodies without public participation or discussion. He stressed that all such reporting to the UN, Council of Europe and other international organizations needed to be public.
As reported at the time, on 8-9 May this year the UN Committee against Torture reviewed Ukraines Fifth Periodic Report. The UN encourages nongovernmental organizations to submit commentaries on these official reports, and indeed the shadow report submitted by KHPG this year was its third, following reports on the Third and Fourth Periodic Reports in 1997 and 2001, respectively.
Arkady Bushchenko, lawyer and KHPG programme coordinator pointed to positive changes and trends over recent years. He said, however, that certain problems remained of concern, namely, impunity in cases where torture has been applied, conflict over the functions of the prosecutors office which hampers the efficient investigation of cases of torture, and the use of violence against many in penal institutions.
“The main defects in the Ukrainian legal system are the use of confessions in legal proceedings as grounds for convictions. Cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty are widespread; there is no strict system for registering individuals deprived of liberty, nor the key safeguards against ill-treatment recognized in international practice, namely free access to a lawyer, doctor and the possibility of contact with the outside world, as well as information about ones rights”. Mr Bushchenko also pointed to the bad conditions in penal institutions.
He believes that the KHPG report had a significant impact on the conclusions of the UN Committee. “I believe that on many issues the Ukrainian Government was unable to provide well-argued answers and prove that it had fulfilled its commitments on implementing the UN Convention against Torture
Oleh Martynenko, Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, noted a clear confrontation between government structures, including the MIA, and human rights organizations.
He stresses however that cooperation with the latter is the single effective way of overcoming the problem of the use of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement or any other government bodies.