Looking in – and out


An important new website has begun work in gathering and sharing information about Ukraine’s penal institutions. The website has been created by the human rights organization “Donetsk Memorial” with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation.

Its organizers explain why a need was seen for such a website.  There are often reports in the media about problems with the penal system and about incidents in penal colonies. They are written by journalists who do not necessarily know much about the system and many questions are often left unanswered, like how many prisoners there are, how many are released each year.

Some questions are not simply for the sake of statistical accuracy.

The website is aimed at helping people who need advice regarding whom they can turn to when a relative or friend has ended up behind bars.

A crucial question is where people who have been released can find support.

There is also advice about how to approach international human rights institutions and much more.

The different sections of the site include a news page giving information about events, including violations of prisoners’ rights, legislation and judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

The section on international documents contains reports from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture on their visits to Ukraine, as well as the recommendations of the Council of Europe regarding specific problems of criminal justice.

Another important section, given the regrettable lack of openness of the Department for the Execution of Sentences, contains correspondence, with examples of letters between civic organizations and State authorities.  One telling example is that of a letter to the Ministry of Justice in which the head of the department is congratulated on the exemplary activities of some heads of the department who were guilty of grave infringements of the Constitution and legislation, this being corroborated by court rulings.

The “Prison website” can be found at 

It is at present only in Ukrainian, however we will also be visiting it and providing ongoing information in English.

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