UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerned over corruption in Ukraine’s law enforcement system


The latest report from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its visit to Ukraine has been presented at the Tenth Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. While commenting on some positive points, it expresses concern over the number of detentions taking place, many of which are not registered. As one of the root causes of problems with arbitrary detentions, it names the powers enjoyed by the Prosecutor General’s office which is responsible not only for criminal prosecutions, but also for overseeing observance of the law by enforcement bodies. 

Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention*



The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, at the invitation of the Government, visited Ukraine on an official mission from 22 October to 5 November 2008. In Kyiv, Donetsk, Simferopol, Sevastopol, Lviv, Uzhhorod, Mukachevo and Chop, the delegation met with Government authorities, representatives of civil society, relatives of detainees, members of domestic monitoring mechanisms and representatives of international and regional organizations. It conducted individual interviews in confidence with 138 detainees and approximately 100 collective interviews in the 21 facilities visited, where people are deprived of their liberty.

The present report provides a brief overview of the institutional and legal framework relating to the deprivation of liberty and describes the situation in Ukraine with regard to criminal detention, including detention under State security and military powers and pending extradition, as well as deprivation of liberty for administrative offences, detention of vagrants, immigration detention, the juvenile justice system and deprivation of liberty on the grounds of mental health.

The Working Group highlights the cooperation given by the Government and the various reforms implemented since the country’s independence in 1991 with respect to the administration of justice system. It also commends the existence of several monitoring mechanisms, such as the Ombudsperson, mobile monitoring clinics and public councils, as a means of combating arbitrary detention, although further strengthening of these mechanisms is required. The Working Group deems the confinement of military jurisdiction, which largely follows civilian criminal and criminal procedure rules, exclusively to conscripts, a good practice. It encourages the Government to adopt swiftly a separate juvenile justice system. The Working Group also found the regime applied to persons deprived of their liberty on grounds of their mental health to be professionally implemented by caring personnel.

One main issue of concern relates to the numerous, consistent and often credible allegations received from various sources, including victims, some of whom minors, of confessions obtained under torture from detainees of the Militsia, the Ukrainian police force. Powers of taking persons into custody vested with the Militsia under the laws on administrative offences and on vagrants are at times abused to extract confessions under duress.

An assessment of statistical data and other information received further revealed that allegations of torture are neither properly addressed by the Office of the Prosecutor General during the investigation and prosecution proceedings nor generally excluded as evidence in trials. The fact that, in 2008, until the visit of the Working Group, the Prosecutor General’s Office considered 30 procedural violations during criminal procedures to be well-founded from a total number of 100,000 complaints, including allegations of torture, speaks volumes, as does the rate of acquittals, which remains stable at less than 1 per cent. The Working Group considers that impunity for perpetrators of ill-treatment largely prevails.

The Working Group identifies as one root cause of arbitrary detention in Ukraine the accumulation of powers within the Office of the Prosecutor General, who has both criminal prosecution and oversight powers, answers extradition requests and can at the same time challenge in court the refugee status of the person for whom extradition is sought. Another root cause is the perceived lack of an independent judiciary and an ineffective system of criminal defence and legal aid. The overall situation is aggravated by rampant corruption throughout the law enforcement system.

With regard to deprivation of liberty in general, the Working Group is concerned about the high number of arrests carried out in the country, many of them not registered, which some sources estimate at approximately 1 million each year. It also perceives that the recourse to pre-trial detention and restrictions applied during detention on remand is too frequent with courts not exercising genuine control when authorizing pre-trial detention.

On the basis of its findings, the Working Group addresses 24 recommendations to the Government of Ukraine concerning, inter alia, allegations of torture to extract confessions; the various law enforcement institutions governing deprivation of liberty; pre-trial detention and legal aid; imprisonment, administrative offences and immigration detention; detention pending extradition; and juvenile justice and monitoring mechanisms.

The full report is available here:

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