Ukrainian SIZO – incurable problems?


In Ukrainian remand units or SIZO, people are falling ill and dying for want of medical assistance, human rights activists and lawyers warn. In the Kyiv SIZO, people who are gravely ill have not been sent to the appropriate hospital in breach of the law and decisions from the European Court of Human Rights. The SIZO management refuses to comment. Meanwhile the State Department for the Execution of Sentences has begun a check into how the rights of people with illnesses are observed in Ukrainian SIZO.

Yury Zubko from the Kyiv region worked all his life as a driver, brought up two sons, and had never been charged with any crime. He was once asked by a police officer he knew to pick up on his way a package with documents from a woman living locally and bring it to him. Yury was stopped when carrying out this request by Security Service [SBU] officers. The package contained a large amount of money. The police officer was soon released, but Yury Zubko, with serious beatings ended up in the Kyiv SIZO where he has been awaiting trial now for 18 months. From his injury his legs are paralyzed which has made old chronic illnesses more acute, yet, according to his son, Oleh, he is virtually not receiving treatment in the SIZO.

Remand prisoners are treated, but not all of them, not properly nor in the right place

Ukrainian legislation entitles gravely ill people to be treated outside the SIZO, however the Kyiv SIZO management ignore their needs, Mr Zubko’s lawyer Anatoly Kalenyuk says. He stresses that his client who is no maniac or murderer was for a long time not allowed treatment outside the SIZO at all, and when they finally gave permission he was handcuffed to the bed, and given only painkillers. He says that under such conditions his client was forced to refuse such treatment. He says that the Head of the SIZO refused to move him to another hospital since “his state of health complies with the course of the illness”.

In response to an official appeal from Mr Zubko’s lawyers, the Head stated that those with illnesses were under permanent supervision of doctors and most did not need to be hospitalized outside the SIZO. As mentioned, he refused to speak to the Radio Svoboda journalist.

Meanwhile some patients are dying through lack of proper treatment. Tamaz Kardava died in the Kyiv SIZO this week,  a few days after being taken in an extremely grave state from the SIZO to a Kyiv hospital, Oleh Vermeyenko who was the dead man’s lawyer states.

“My client’s relatives brought him medicine yet we saw that they weren’t even unpacked. Tamaz was in a ward with women and those suffering from tuberculosis. He had a nosebleed yet nobody came for two days. There is only one explanation, that corruption is rampant. Prisoners say that it’s the “top guys” who get into the hospital units where the conditions are better, while those with illnesses remain in the usual wards. If the relatives pay, the person gets proper treatment and is even allowed to have a telephone and television”.

Meanwhile, according to Taras Turush, from the Press Service of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences, the Department has begun a check into how the rights of people with illnesses are observed in Ukrainian SIZO. He says that their specialists have begun a check of the Kyiv, Kharkiv and other SIZO and that they will make the results public.

Hryhory Maryanovsky, Member of the Department’s Public Council, says that the majority of SIZO prisoners get normal treatment, and that it is only in rare cases that somebody needs to be released but is not.

However lawyer from the Institute of Legal Strategies Aigul Mukhanova considers violations of the right to medical treatment to be a global problem of the Ukrainian penal system.  She believes that the Department is closed and relatives, lawyers and civic organizations don’t have access to the people. She believes that this is because the penal system has not changed since Soviet times and it’s easier in that way to conceal the lawlessness within the system.

According to figures from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, 32 thousand people are being held in SIZO, awaiting court verdicts.

Abridged from a report by Yevhen Solonyna at

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