Police: “We don’t beat everybody”
According to Ukrainian human rights campaigners, over half a million Ukrainians suffer some form or torture or ill-treatment by the police each year. They say that virtually all those detained on suspicion of a serious crime are affected. The Ministry of Internal Affairs acknowledges that there is a problem, but does not accept that it is so widespread.
Bohdan Khmelnytsky is into a third year of criminal investigation into a charge of car theft. He alleges having a bag put over his head and other methods applied to beat out a confession. He believes he was saved from more treatment like that which stopped after, driven to despair, he made a suicide attempt. After being released from custody under a signed undertaking not to abscond, the young man began civic activity in support of those whom he is convinced the police are still continuing to torture to get the confessions they need.
The particular feature of the civic organization which Bohdan is part of, the Svoboda Human Rights Centre is that most of its activists have had direct experience of police torture.
They endeavour through their testimony and knowledge to show that many people convicted of crime have received large sentences because they were forced to confess to other people’s crimes through torture and ill-treatment.
The Deputy Head of the Centre, Andriy Didenko, says that there are very many such cases. He cites the case of Mr Bondar who, he alleges, was so badly beaten that he now can’t do anything with his hands. He mentions the case of Oleksandr Rafalsky who is serving a life sentence.
Human rights groups say that it takes half an hour of police torture before the average person will confess to a crime they didn’t commit. Most, even 90%, confess in the space of 24 hours.
Oleksandr Rafalsky’s family say that even under torture he did not confess to somebody else’s crime yet he still got life. This has radically changed also his mother’s life. She once had a successful business, but has now devoted her time totally to helping others like herself and her son.
She has tried all avenues to help her son, and at times regrets that he didn’t confess to a crime he didn’t commit. She says that might have saved him from a life sentence.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs questions human rights groups’ assertions that police torture is on a mass scale, although it acknowledges that the problem exists, as evidenced by cases in the European Court of Human Rights. The latter has already handed down several judgments awarding compensation for such torture.
Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Kostyantin Stohniy, asserts that the new police management has already declared war on such torture. He says that the proof of this is “a whole number of high-ranking police officials, suspected of involvement in torture”.
Mr Stohniy talks for some time about how the Ministry is now going to fight such abuse. Since there is no specific detail, and no explanation of how this can be reconciled with the new drive in the Ministry for better performance based on the notorious indicators based on how many crimes have been “solved”, nor why with such acknowledged problems, the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Police and other initiatives to protect human rights of those detained have been folded, it seems warranted to wait for more detail.Abridged and at the end supplemented from the Ukrainian at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ukrainian/news/2010/07/100729_ukraine_tortures_police_az_it.shtml