Wave of violence spreading in penal institutions
The human rights organization Donetsk Memorial recently issued a statement criticizing unwarranted use of violence against prisoners in penal institutions
“There has been a noticeable increase recently in the number of reports it receives about incidents in penal institutions. There are a particularly large number of reports of so-called searches which are carried out by combat forces n masks. These often behave in a brutal manner, and use force without motivation. On the other hand it is almost impossible to prove that the use of force was unprovoked or excessive.
There are quite a number of reports alleging intimidation of particular prisoners, threats directed both at them and at their relatives. Reports have also become more frequent of cases of suicide where there are very serious question marks as to whether the person voluntarily chose to end his life.
In all such cases the Department for the Execution of Sentences claims that the actions of its personnel were warranted and within the law. At the same time representatives of the public, especially human rights organizations are virtually never included in checks into cases of violence against prisoners.
A significant increase in the use of violence and threats against prisoners by the penal administrations reflects a general trend towards physical and psychological pressure on prisoners.
In our view, the surge of violence is linked with an awaited visit by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture [CPT]. The management of the Department is trying trough threats and demonstrations of arbitrary violence to intimidate prisoners so that they don’t complain, or even think of complaining.
We hope that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture will bear in mind these comments and information about numerous reports of intimidation of prisoners during its visit, and also any reaction or lack of such from the Department to this statement.
We would draw the attention of the President, the Prosecutor General, National Deputies, the Ministry of Justice, the Human Rights Ombudsperson to an increase in treatment which is dangerous and unacceptable from the point of view of international standards, and in the use of violence in penal institutions.
We believe that there is a very real need for the creation of an independent inspection body in Ukraine, authorized to carry out monitoring of prisoners’ rights in penal institutions. We consider the indifference of the Department for the Execution of Sentences and other State structures to the creation of such an inspection body to be unacceptable.
We call on the management of the Department for the Execution of Sentences to immediately stop its use of unwarranted and unmotivated violence against prisoners, and bring those responsible for such practice to justice and to give objective consideration to reports of violence against prisoners.