Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Ukrainian Penitentiary Society calls for responsible appointment


The dismissal last week of Vasyl Koshchynets from his post as Head of the Department for the Execution of Sentences [the Department] and rumours over who will take his place have prompted human rights organizations to renew their calls for serious reform of the penal system.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Head of the Penitentiary Society and two member of its Board, express their concern over continuing deterioration in the human rights situation in penal institutions.

“To a large extent this is connected with the level of competence of the Department’s management. It is headed by people who before their appointment had no experience of work in this field. Both the Head of the Department, Vasyl Koshchynets, and his Deputies, in particular, Natalya Kalashnyk, were new to the system. Their lack of experience of work in the system became evident very soon. A number of specialists who could not accept the dilettantism of the management but felt powerless to change things resigned. As a result of such management the human rights situation for prisoners has deteriorated; the gap between the incomes of the top management and ordinary staff has widened dramatically. The number of suicides among prisoners has increased, as has allegations of ill-treatment from prisoners. Cooperation between the Department and leading human rights organizations has been rendered virtually impossible. There have even been accusations against human rights defenders of being commissioned by criminal elements when they demand a cessation to violations of human rights in penal institutions.

We are seriously concerned that the ability to use fine-sounding declarations about commitment to European standards and pretended concern for human rights are masking the inability to resolve issues regarding the development of the system in a professional manner. This was seen in the results of the visit of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, as well as the annual report on prisoners’ rights produced by the human rights organization Donetsk Memorial.”

The letter goes on to state that open letters from human rights groups on the bad situation as regards prisoners’ rights sent to the President, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, and to the Prime Minister in February and June 2008 did not receive due attention and points out that another letter was also sent by Donetsk Memorial to the Prime Minister, containing copies of these open letters.

As members of the Penitentiary Society with wide knowledge of the penal system and its problems and specific needs, they are asking the Prime Minister to give very careful attention to the appointment of a new Head of the Department.

The letter is signed by Oleksandr Bukalov, Head of the Penitentiary Society and of Donetsk Memorial, Valentina Badyra and Tetyana Denysova, both members of the Penitentiary Society’s Board.

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